Skip to main content

Diplomat: Confidential report finds Iran shipping arms to Syria

By the CNN Wire Staff
May 18, 2012 -- Updated 0233 GMT (1033 HKT)
  • At least 20 people are killed Thursday, an opposition group says
  • 13 "martyrs" are buried Thursday, Syria said
  • A draft report says two shipments of weapons bound for Syria have been seized
  • U.S. government denies report it is helping supply arms to rebels

Are you there? Send us your images or video.

(CNN) -- A confidential draft U.N. report accuses Iran of exporting arms to the Syrian government in violation of a ban on weapons sales, a Western diplomat said Wednesday on condition of anonymity.

The draft report describes three seizures of Iranian weapons shipments, including two bound for Syria, within the past year, said the diplomat, who was not authorized to release details to the media.

The report was drafted by a panel of experts and submitted to the U.N. Security Council's committee that monitors sanctions against Iran, the official told CNN.

There was no immediate reaction to the report on Iranian government-run Press TV.

The accusation came as al-Assad, in a rare interview, told Russia 24 that weapons bound for rebels were entering his country from neighboring Lebanon and Turkey.

"You can't simply close the borders and stop the smuggling, but you can reduce the flow," he said.

Syria's Assad accuses media of bias
Syrian refugees flee to Turkey
Syrian man helps clear landmines
Ajami: Syria is Obama's Rwanda

In recent days, violence has spilled over into Lebanon and Turkey, where thousands of Syrians have fled. At least one person was killed and an undetermined number were wounded Thursday in renewed clashes in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli between factions supporting and opposing the uprising in Syria, Lebanon's National News Agency reported.

Al-Assad put the blame instead on the so-called Arab Spring, during which popular revolutions have toppled the governments of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

"If we take into consideration the developments in Syria, the events in Libya and other countries, for the leaders of these countries, it's becoming clear that this is not 'spring' but chaos," al-Assad said.

The Arab Spring movements inspired the uprising in Syria, which began in March 2011 with protests calling for political reforms. It devolved into a revolt with an armed opposition amid a crackdown by al-Assad's forces.

The United Nations estimates that at least 9,000 people have died in the 14 months of conflict, while opposition groups put the death toll at more than 11,000.

CNN cannot independently verify reports of deaths and violence because the Syrian government has severely restricted access by international media.

At least 20 people were killed Thursday in attacks across the country, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition network that collects casualty reports and organizes anti-government protests. The deaths include 10 in the Damascus suburbs of Daraya and Douma, three in Idlib, three in Daraa, two in Homs, one in Raqqa, and one in Swaida, the LCC said.

Syria blames violence in the country on "armed terrorist groups."

Some groups "continued perpetrating massacres and targeting law enforcement members and citizens, and vandalizing public and private properties" on Thursday, state-run news agency SANA reported.

Thirteen "army, law enforcement and civilian martyrs" were buried Thursday, SANA said.

It added that 72 people from Aleppo, Idlib and Damascus "who were involved in the latest events but didn't commit crimes, gave themselves up with their weapons to the authorities Wednesday."

Opposition groups, including members of the rebel army, say al-Assad's government has been trying to hamper their efforts by accusing them falsely of links to terrorism.

A video posted on YouTube purported to show thousands of anti-government protesters outside Aleppo University, where blue-helmeted men could be seen. The U.N. observes wear blue helmets. CNN could not confirm the authenticity of the video.

While rebel forces, called the Free Syrian Army, say their ranks are filled by defectors from Syria security forces, al-Assad described them as criminals.

"It's not an army, first of all, and it's not free because they get their arms from different foreign countries," he said in the interview.

"That's why they are not free at all -- they are a bunch of criminals who have been violating the law for years and have been sentenced in various criminal cases. There are religious extremist elements among them, like those from al Qaeda."

Al-Assad dismissed the international pressure brought to bear for him to end the violence and step down, vowing that Syria would not bow on any issue.

The United States, the European Union and the United Nations have targeted Syria with a number of economic sanctions targeting al-Assad and his government.

Al-Assad acknowledged the sanctions have hurt Syria's economy.

"The world doesn't consist just of Europe and the United States, and we find alternatives which allow us to overcome these difficulties," he said. "We can support small and mid-sized business, the basic element of our economy is agriculture, and it's hard to affect it with sanctions."

He also called a boycott of recent parliamentary elections by the opposition a failure.

"It seems to some people that if we conducted the reforms earlier, the situation would have been better now. It's not right for one reason -- terrorists spit on reforms. They are not fighting for reforms, they are fighting to bring terror," he said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government distanced itself from a Washington Post report that said more and better weapons are making their way into the hand of Syrian rebels.

The newspaper, citing unidentified officials and opposition activists, reported that the arms are being paid for by Persian Gulf nations and coordinated, in part, by the United States.

"The United States has made a decision to provide nonlethal support to civilian members of the opposition," Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman told reporters Wednesday. "... But with regard to any assertions with regard to lethal, we are not involved in that."

The United States has expressed reservations about arming rebels, citing division among the opposition.

Meanwhile, those divisions deepened Thursday with the Syrian National Council, widely perceived by Western countries as a primary coalition for the opposition, coming under fire by a leading opposition activist group.

The LCC called the national council a "failure," and vowed to withdraw from the group. The council has been under fire for failing to unify the opposition groups and bring in international support.

CNN's Amir Ahmed, Nada Husseini and Joe Vaccarello contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1243 GMT (2043 HKT)
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1248 GMT (2048 HKT)
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2133 GMT (0533 HKT)
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1141 GMT (1941 HKT)
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 2117 GMT (0517 HKT)
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 2025 GMT (0425 HKT)
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 0804 GMT (1604 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
June 2, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
June 3, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
June 5, 2014 -- Updated 1610 GMT (0010 HKT)
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
May 28, 2014 -- Updated 2119 GMT (0519 HKT)
What caught our experts' ears was as much about what he didn't address as much as what he did.
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1019 GMT (1819 HKT)
The three-year war in Syria has claimed 162,402 lives, an opposition group said Monday, as the raging conflict shows no signs of abating.
May 31, 2014 -- Updated 0141 GMT (0941 HKT)
Official: The U.S. believes a jihadi featured in a suicide bombing video in Syria is Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha who grew up in Florida.
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1437 GMT (2237 HKT)
For the first time, Britain has convicted someone of a terrorism offense related to the Syrian civil war.