News / Middle East

    US Says Iran Helping Syria Quell Protests

    State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner (file photo)
    State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner (file photo)

    The U.S. State Department said Thursday it has credible information that Iran is helping the Syrian government quell anti-government protests. Meanwhile a top U.S. diplomat is returning to Bahrain to try to  ease a conflict between authorities and protestors there.

    Iran has at least in public statements, praised protest movements in Arab countries. But officials here say that it is actively helping Syria in efforts to quell persistent demonstrations against the Damascus government.

    The State Department comments follow a Wall Street Journal report Thursday quoting U.S. officials as saying that Iran is providing the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with gear to suppress crowds, and assistance in blocking and monitoring protestors’ use of the Internet, cellphones and text-messaging.

    The Iranian government used such tactics to violently put down a local protest movement last year, and the Wall Street Journal said its support for the al-Assad government reflects its concern about the prospect of losing a critical regional ally.

    At a news briefing, State Department Acting Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said while the Iranian government has “obvious problems” with its own human rights record, it continues to play a meddling role in the region.

    “We believe that there is credible information that Iran is assisting Syria," said Toner. "I’m not going to get into details about that material assistance, but it’s of real concern to us.”

    Toner said if the Syrian government, which has spoken of its interest in reform, is turning to Iran for help, it “can’t be very serious” about it.

    As the same time, he called Iran’s encouragement of Arab protest movements, especially in Egypt and Bahrain, “hypocritical” though he said U.S. officials have not seen any indications that Iran is playing an “active role” in helping the mainly-Shiite Bahrain protest movement.

    The spokesman said Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will return to Bahrain next week to try to help bridge the gap between Manama government, a key U.S. ally, and opponents.

    Feltman was in Bahrain last month trying to broker talks between the monarchy and protestors when the government launched a violent crackdown.

    He was reportedly denied access to key government officials on the eve of the move by security forces, but Toner said the chief U.S. Middle east diplomat is confident he’ll be able to play a constructive role.

    “We continue to have conversations with the Bahraini authorities and across the political spectrum in Bahrain," said Toner. "Certainly, we’ve been candid in voicing our concerns about some of these recent actions. But we believe that there is a peaceful way forward and that that can be achieved.”

    Toner said the United States is concerned about Bahrain’s announcement Thursday that it will dissolve the country’s main Shiite opposition group, al-Wefaq, and a smaller faction on grounds that they had tried to bring down constitutional order.

    He said the U.S. sees them as “legitimate” political societies that were recognized by the government and said Washington “would welcome” a reversal of the ban.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora