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    Damascus bomb near Shia site

    The bomb went off in a parking lot about 50 meters from the Shrine to Sayyida Zainab, too far away to level the shrine.  The bomb wounded 14 people, according to Syrian officials, shattered windows, knocked down chandeliers and cracked mosaic walls.

    It wasn’t clear if the target of the bombing was Shias, and a reflection of growing sectarian strife, or Iranians, and a reflection of rebel hostility to Iran for supporting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

    The shrine, believed to house the remains of the Prophet’s granddaughter, has become one of the major shrines for Iranian Shiites to visit.  For 30 years, the government in Tehran has promoted pilgrimages there, paying for many such trips as a reward to enthusiastic revolutionaries.

    Meanwhile, Iran accused the United States of arming the rebels in Syria and feeding the bloodshed there.  The death toll has now passed 14,000 after 15 months of fighting.

    But Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona accused President Obama of the exact opposite—a “shameful” policy in Syria because he refuses to provide arms.  McCain said US aid for the rebels would deal “the greatest blow to Iran in the Middle East in 25 years….  The fact that the United States is not helping these people all we can is shameful,” McCain told NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday.

    In Tehran five days earlier, Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi not only accused Washington of sending weapons to the rebels but said that unnamed countries have stationed troops inside Syria.

    “They have some of their forces operating inside Syria,” Salehi said, without explaining who “they” are.  “They say they want to prevent massacres, but at the same time send weapons; these are double standards.”  The United States has repeatedly said it wants to prevent massacres in Syria.

    The United States had said the Islamic Republic has been helping Syria fight the rebels for a year.  The aid began primarily as technical assistance, showing Syria how to tap into social media and cellphone calls to track down opposition organizers.  Since then, US officials say, Iran has provided an unknown quantity of arms.  The Syrian opposition says Iran has also sent troops, including snipers who shoot demonstrators, but the United States says it has found no evidence of any Iranian combat forces inside Syria.

    The Islamic Republic denies supplying any hardware to Syria.  Major General Hassan Firuzabadi, the highest-ranking officer in Iran, said recently that Iran is only supporting Syria “intellectually and spiritually.”

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