The shift appears driven not so much by a desire for human rights protections or democratic progress, however – Iran reportedly has helped Syria crack down on the protesters – but rather a concern that a collapse of the Assad regime could result in an "unprecedented regional crisis," according to the Associated Press.
Iran's ties with Syria go far beyond the countries' long-standing friendship in a region dominated by Arab suspicions of Tehran's aims. Syria also is Iran's conduit for aid to powerful anti-Israel proxies Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Should Assad's regime fall, it could rob Iran of a loyal Arab partner in a region profoundly realigned by uprisings demanding more freedom and democracy.
Iran's comments show that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other top officials are concerned about being on the losing side of the uprising, writes Syria expert Joshua Landis.