The White House issued its most threatening statement yet yesterday, denouncing Iran and the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah as "partners in tyranny" for their support of the Assad regime in Syria.
This week, Syrian government forces claimed victory in the battle for the strategic town of Qusayr, near the Lebanese border, after weeks of fighting beginning May 19. Qusayr lies along a land corridor linking Damascus and the Mediterranean coastal area that is home to Assad's Alawite sect and is, at the same time, key to maintaining opposition supply lines to Lebanon.
The battle involved Lebanon's Shia Hezbollah militants in support of Assad, pitched against the numerous Sunni groups such as the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front and other foreign fighters backed by the region's Sunni states.
White House spokesman Jay Carney responded by condemning "in the strongest possible terms the Assad regime's assault on Qusayr," adding: "It is clear that the regime is unable to contest the opposition's control of a place like Qusayr on their own, and that is why they are dependent on Hezbollah and Iran to do their work for them."
After being routed from Qusayr, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, Gen. Salim Idris, told the BBC that Hezbollah fighters were "invading" Syria, and "when they continue to do that and the Lebanese authorities don't take any action to stop them coming to Syria, I think we are allowed to fight Hezbollah fighters inside [Lebanese] territory."