Washington: Iran is increasing its "lethal" military and intelligence assistance to the embattled Syrian regime in its crackdown on opposition strongholds like Homs, according to a media report here on Sunday.

Iran has increased supply of arms and other aid for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad at a time when his regime is mounting an "unprecedented offensive to crush resistance in the key city of Homs", A newspaper said quoting unnamed US officials with access to intelligence reports from the region.

"The aid from Iran is increasing, and is increasingly focused on lethal assistance," said one of the officials.

The expanded Iranian role in the conflict has been underscored by reports — supported by US intelligence findings — that an Iranian operative was recently wounded while working with Syrian security forces inside the country.

The flow of military aid to Assad comes as Arab states are considering arming the regime's opponents, raising the risk of a wider conflict that US officials fear could spread to neighbouring countries.
In addition, the intelligence reports about rising Iranian support for Syria come as US officials are seeking to rally international support for efforts to drive Assad from power without resorting to arming the rebels — a move the Obama administration has opposed.

The portrayal offered by the US officials ¬ quoted in the article is more detailed than previously reported; such accounts are generally difficult to verify independently.

Iran has made no secret of its support for the Assad regime, though President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made repeated calls for a peaceful solution to the conflict, which began almost a year ago.

The US intelligence assessments are in line with recent reports by Syrian rebels, who say Iran's involvement in the crackdown has escalated.

Opposition leaders, citing high-ranking defectors from the Syrian military, say Iran has dispatched hundreds of advisers, security officials and intelligence operatives to Syria, along with weapons, money and electronic surveillance equipment.

According to the UN, Syrian security forces have killed over 7,500 civilians since an uprising against Assad's regime began last year.