Economic alliance strengthens Iran and Syria’s resilience to Western pressure

Friday, 2019-02-01 12:31:36
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The documents were signed during a meeting between Iranian First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri (left) and Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis in Damascus.
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NDO – Iran and Syria have signed a series of economic agreements, a move which is considered the fruits of cooperation between Tehran and Damascus in the fight against the rebels in Syria, and an opportunity for Iran to expand its influence in the neighbouring nation. An Iran-Syria economic alliance will help increase power and create a united front against Western pressure.

After the government troops reclaimed control over most of territory from the rebels, Syria began to enter an arduous process of rebuilding the country. As one of the countries with strong support for President Bashar al-Assad’s administration, Iran now continues to be engaged in the reconstruction of post-war Syria. During the visit to Syria made by Iran’s Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, which was described by the Syrian side as a “historic event”, Tehran signed many important deals with Damascus about cooperation in the field of banking, while pledging to help repair power stations across Syria and build a new power plant in the coastal city of Latakia. Iran declared that they would stand side by side with Syria in the reconstruction process as they did in the fight against terrorism. Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis said that Syria and Iran signed a “unique” agreement on long-term economic cooperation, regarding the fields of industry, agriculture and trade. The two sides also signed a number of memoranda of understandings (MoUs).

According to observers, during the conflict that lasted for the past eight years, Iran had given a lot of assistance to Syria, including the deployment of forces to support the Damascus administration in the military sphere. The Syrian government always attaches great importance to relations with Iran, as well as with Russia, identifying Tehran as one of the key partners in the post-war reconstruction of the country. The signing of bilateral deals will enable the two sides to strengthen their capabilities in dealing with the “economic war” launched by the West, aimed at both Tehran and Damascus. In the context of tighter Western grip over the Iranian and Syrian economies, the enhancement of bilateral trade ties is expected to help the two nations reduce difficulties and have greater motivation to carry on with their policies against the West. Syrian President al-Assad said that Iran and Syria should exert greater efforts to block the West’s attempts to weaken both countries. The Syrian leader called on Iran’s state and private enterprises to play a more active role in Syrian reconstruction projects and plans.

The closer Syria-Iran cooperation across various areas has emerged as a worry for the United States and its ally Israel. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is currently deploying a group of commanders and advisers in Syria to support President al-Assad’s administration in the fight against terrorism. However, Iran’s military presence in Syria made the US and Israel on a “knife-edge”. Washington and Tel Aviv always consider Iran as a “threat” in the region. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu emphasised the Israeli policy of preventing Iran’s “entrenchment” in Syria. The Israeli military repeatedly conducted air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, while the US made constant moves to pressure Iran aiming to prevent Tehran’s increased influence in Syria and in the region. Recently, Syria’s air defence system shot down seven missiles aimed at an airport to the southeast of Damascus, which were believed to have been fired by Israel at the Iranian targets.

Iran is working with Russia and Turkey to promote a political roadmap for Syria within the framework of the Astana peace process. The leaders of the three nations convened a tripartite summit on the Syrian crisis in September 2018 and are pushing for a similar meeting in the near future. With Iran’s involvement as an intermediary, the Syrian government can be reassured in the face of Turkish pressure to establish a “safe zone”, which was accused by the Damascus administration to be an “occupied area”, in the Syrian border area.

In the context of increased US and Western economic pressure on both Iran and Syria, the close cooperation between these two Middle Eastern nations will help them have greater resilience against the storm. The newly signed cooperation deals between Tehran and Damascus have caused “headaches” for many Western countries, as these countries are widely known in the region for their “stubbornness”.