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.
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.