UPDATE 1500 GMT: Iran has followed up its contacts with Russia with public reassurances to the Assad regime.

President Hassan Rouhani called President Assad to express “strong condemnation of the outrageous US aggression” which was “a blatant violation of the Syrian sovereignty and all the international laws and conventions”, according to Syrian State news agency SANA.

Assad supposedly declared that the US failed in achieving the goal of “raising the morale of the US-backed terrorist gangs” with its Friday missile strikes on the Shayrat airbase.

The head of the Iranian army, Major General Mohammad Bagheri, called his Syrian counterpart General Ali Abdullah Ayoub to expressed Iran’s support for the regime, SANA said.

Still assessing its line after the first deliberate US strikes on Syria’s Assad regime, Iran is featuring joint announcements with Russia, the other essential ally of President Assad.

The head of Iran’s armed forces, Major General Mohammad Baqeri, conferred with Russian counterpart Valery Vasilevich Gerasimov on Saturday. Afterwards, the two sides put out a holding statement of “resolve to fight Takfiri terrorism…step up anti-terror operations in cooperation with the Syrian government until the complete defeat of terrorists and their allies”.

The Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, spoke with the Secretary of the Russian Federation Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev. According to Iranian State media, Shamkhani said, “The path of firmly countering terrorism will continue through further strategic cooperation among Iran, Syria, Russia and the resistance front.”

Shamkhani also went farther than the cautious Iranian statements after Tuesday’s chemical attack by the Assad regime in northwest Syria, which triggered the US missile strikes on the Shayrat airbase on Friday.

The Foreign Ministry had not denied possible Assad responsibility for the use of a hybrid nerve agent and chlorine which killed more than 100 people. But Shamkhani said yesterday that the chemical attack was by a “third party…with the purpose of creating a pretext to carry out a military attack on Syria”.

Insisting that Assad had dismantled his chemical facilities and handed over stocks, Shamkhani called for “an independent international fact-finding committee”.

TOP PHOTO: Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani