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“It should start with Iran,” he said. “Iran is the biggest troublemaker in the Middle East.”

Mr. Carney said the administration understands Iran’s role in the crisis in Syria, where government forces have killed hundreds of civilians and detained thousands of protesters during two months of unrest. “The Syrian government continues to follow the lead of its Iranian ally in resorting to brute force and flagrant violations of human rights and suppressing peaceful protests,” he said.