May 21st, 2012
05:43 PM ET

Iran propping up Syria's dwindling cash reserves

Editor's note: CNN's Barbara Starr is covering the Eager Lion military exercise in Jordan.  Read all her reporting here.

By Barbara Starr

Syria's president is quickly spending through his cash reserves as sanctions choke off many sources of funding, but the regime is getting help from Iran in bolstering finances, CNN has learned.

In Jordan, the government is accepting the reality that Bashar al-Assad may remain in power in Syria for months to come, aided by Iran.

According to intelligence assessment shared with CNN, al-Assad likely had about $30 billion in cash reserves to spend when unrest and bloodshed began in March 2011. He's about down to $6 billion to $9 billion.

And with the war against his own people costing him about $1 billion a month, he should have been out of business by the end of the year, according to officials in the region.

But sources are also telling CNN that al-Assad is getting a cash infusion from Iran, funneled in through banks in Lebanon, and Iran's support combined with Russia's political and economic support could keep al-Assad going for months to come.

The assistance is just part of how Iran is helping Syria.

As CNN reported earlier this year, Iran has provided further aid as part of what the officials described as "all-in" support for al-Assad, including small arms and assistance in helping the Syrian government use computer monitoring to rout out opposition using social media and other Internet tools.

While troops from 19 countries, including the United States, have converged in Jordan for the Eager Lion military exercise, U.S. and Jordanian elite forces are doing additional training to prepare for potential fallout should Syria's government collapse.

U.S. Army Green Berets are training Jordanian special forces in a number of so called "worst-case scenarios" including Syria's chemical and biological weapons falling out of the control of government forces, U.S. sources tell CNN.

The U.S., Jordan and other allies are worried that opposition forces or groups like al Qaeda could seize some partial control of 20 key chemical and biological sites inside Syria.

U.S. intelligence officials have long said they believe Syria's chemical and biological weapons remain under the control of al-Assad's forces and there is little need to worry.

Securing the sites would demand that outside ground forces land in Syria within 18 hours of any collapse to try to regain control, according to an assessment shared with CNN.

The Jordanians believe that with al-Assad remaining in power, Jordan must plan and train its forces for any potential option. But the introduction of American special operations forces such as the Green Berets is seen as an indicator that the United States is prepared to help defend Jordan if it came to that.

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Filed under: Assad • Iran • Syria
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  6. Uber News Network-UNN

    India is playing a double game with Americans in Syria also. Underhand deals undermining the efforts of western nations to bring an end to the Syrian problem being cut by Indians.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  7. Maz

    Why the media silence? This really *does* look like a media conspiracy – this should be getting press

    May 22, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Reply
  8. sam kohen

    sam kohen
    Syria and Israel signed a tacit peace agreement in 1974 that has stood solid. Now with Al Quada getting more involved in the uprising in Syria, and most likely to take charge of it, President Assad now has a real enemy on his hands which will be very difficult to take on. Israel now has good reeason to worry with Al Quada on their very doorstep.

    Most dictators are basically stupid. President Assad is no exception with the way he handled this uprising in a clumsy idiotic way. What he should do right now is make a real peace agreement with Israel. With that the US and their allies would be on his side all the way.

    May 22, 2012 at 9:05 am | Reply

    May 22, 2012 at 9:07 am | Reply
  9. citizenUSA

    If this is true, then I guess the story CNN ran yesterday about Iran saying they are not being hurt by sanctions is also true, I guess.

    May 22, 2012 at 7:53 am | Reply
  10. TheCouncil

    What is the main problem in the MIddle East? Their leaders, whether Jewish, Christain, or Muslim don't get it! There is only one way to solve their problems! Get along! With that comes economic freedom, leading towards civilized societies, and most important progress that would make their people proud and happy! Enough of standing by, watching innocent people get slaughtered in Syria. The Middle Eastern leaders need to grow some balls and take care of Syria. Whether or not we, in the West might agree totally with the monarch systms in the MIddle East isn't our problem! Let the people be free and encourage human development and success!

    May 22, 2012 at 6:28 am | Reply
  11. gkibarricade

    I don't get how Assad recieving money makes his government unstable. If anything it makes makes the government more stable and capable of guarding its weapons. Maybe the U.S should also give money if it avoids giving al-Qaida getting those weapons. Probably cheaper then military intervention.

    May 22, 2012 at 3:34 am | Reply
  12. AmadoC

    I believe the Syrian situation will intensify as the other countries that participated in the Arab Spring progress, giving Syrian's reasons to up-rise. I think Syrians themselves would agree with everyone else's need to take a short break after all the action that occurred in the Arab Spring because that was a lot of accomplishment for third-world middle-Eastern countries. So, it's like making fun of the idea that simply because there is no law (other than the fact that Assad wants it that way on purpose against the meaning of humanity, a global concept he's outnumbered within the New World) protecting the rights of the majority of Syrian's to elect their representative, as the Arab Spring countries progress... that is, the local law Syrian's will most likely identify with is of ancient civilizations that have impacted this world for thousands of years even before Christ. Therefore, one way to impact Syria is to help the transition of Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia to a more “people government” as it’s my opinion that this will cause a transcendental uprising within the borders of Syria faster than any physical weapon is capable of.

    May 22, 2012 at 2:41 am | Reply
  13. derykhouston

    This article is so unbalanced. Iran is not the only one supporting Syria. The Russians are in there big time because they have a vested interest in keeping things as they are Just as the American's pour money into countries all over the world propping up disgusting and brutal leaders. Why doesn;t Starr point that out? Why doesn;t she point out that the US and other countries are supplying arms and money to groups in Syria that are torturing innocents people and who are ignoring international law and have been reported to have committed war crimes. This kind of reporting is a disgrace to CNN...but not surprising. That's why CNN's claim to be the most trusted name in no longer valid.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:54 am | Reply
    • Mtheumer

      "Why doesn;t she point out that the US and other countries are supplying arms and money to groups in Syria that are torturing innocents people"

      Why don't you prove that "fact" with a link?

      May 22, 2012 at 4:37 am | Reply
  14. FedUpwithLA

    No wonder Israel is so upset with their neighbors. Can you imagine living next to Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, et al? What a multi-billion dollar mess these people are!

    May 22, 2012 at 1:24 am | Reply
  15. FedUpwithLA

    So glad that Bush is out of there so that he can't attempt to clean up this mess. So what's Obama going to do? Nothing!

    May 22, 2012 at 1:22 am | Reply
    • jqent

      In the current situation, "nothing" is probably the wisest thing for the US to do.... Don't put boots on the ground, don't pour in arms that might end in terrorist hands (or worse, in Assad's), but wait for the situation to clarify. If Iran is wasting its money supporting Assad, well and good... the more they spend, they less they have to finance mischief elsewhere..

      May 22, 2012 at 1:59 am | Reply
  16. Economics Major

    Let the Iranians throw away their money. Just as good as sanctions from the west, in fact better.

    May 22, 2012 at 1:20 am | Reply
  17. Marvel

    So....the sanctions against Iran are NOT working? Just today I heard a report how the sanctions agianst Iran is crippling that economy and that their banks are about to fail because the west will not allow Iranian transactions....

    Now the US is training Jordanians for a worse case senerio where al Quaeda takes Syria. Well, I bet they are just kicking themselves for swallowing the unconfirmed reports from hidden protesters hook line and sinker. Why not believe the Syrian people through their governement or just plain ol common sense when it became clear to all US commenters that Syria is facing foreign terrorist mercenaries trying to rise to power against the will of the Syrian people and it's government. .

    May 22, 2012 at 12:15 am | Reply
  18. nope

    throw a curveball, nuke a supporter of Iran.. nuke Russia, see where that takes us

    -kthx bye

    love, m. romney

    May 21, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Reply

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