By Barbara Starr
The United States sees increasing involvement by and military aid from Iran in the attacks against opposition to the Syrian regime, according to several Obama administration officials.
They believe Iran wants to do whatever it can to ensure the survival of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, one of Tehran's closest allies.
"The aid from Iran is absolutely on the rise and is of very real concern," a U.S. official told CNN. "Tehran has supplied equipment, weapons and technical assistance - notably computer monitoring tools - to help suppress unrest."
This includes providing equipment to monitor communications of opposition groups. Iranian officials have continued to travel to Damascus to deliver the aid, the official said.
"Iran's relationship with Syria is deep, and the motivations for maintaining those ties are solid and pragmatic. For one, Iran does not want to see AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq) gain a foothold in Syria, the official told CNN.
A second U.S. official told CNN the assistance includes money and training, as well as weapons and riot gear.
Neither of the officials would be identified due to the sensitive nature of the intelligence information.
Syria's military has been reduced only slightly by defections to the opposition, U.S. official say. The latest U.S assessment is that as many as 10,000 Syrian troops may have defected, but that is only a fraction of Syria's more than 600,000-man active duty and reserve force.