With War’s End in Sight, Iran and Syria Move Toward Closer Economic Cooperation

Developing Just Leadership

Ayman Ahmed

Jumada' al-Akhirah 29, 1443 2022-02-01

News & Analysis

by Ayman Ahmed (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 12, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1443)

The Daesh terrorists (or any other names they use to camouflage their identity) have been confined to a small sliver of land in Idlib province of Syria. The rest of the country has been cleansed of their demonic ideology and murderous practices after 10 years of war. Most Syrian refugees have also returned home to their villages and towns starting the process of clearing and reconstruction.

There are unmistakable signs that the US-Saudi-Israeli-Turkish-Emirati-imposed war on Syria has been defeated. Some, like the Emiratis have already made up with Syria as was evident from the visit on November 9, 2021of the Emirati Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed to Damascus where he met Syrian President Bashar al Asad. Saudi Arabia, too, is inching toward making up with Asad, having realized the futility of trying to overthrow his government.

Syria is clearly anxious to move to the reconstruction phase since the damage to its infrastructure has exceeded more than $117 billion, according to Vision of Humanity report. Not surprisingly, Islamic Iran will play a significant role in its reconstruction effort just as it was the principal backer of the Syrian government. According to the Atlantic Council, estimates of Iran’s support to Syria range “from $30 billion to $105 billion for the first seven years.”

Together with Hizbullah, Iran provided military support to defeat the Daesh terrorists that were unleashed in 2011. The martyr, General Qassem Soleimani had played a major role in confronting and defeating the terrorists.

That the two countries are moving quickly toward the building phase and deepening economic ties was reflected in the three-day visit from January 12 of Iran’s Transportation Minister Rostam Qassemi to Syria. Heading a high-level economic and trade delegation, he was received by Syria’s Economy and Trade Minister Mohammad Samer al-Khalil at Damascus International Airport.

Upon arrival in Damascus, the Iranian minister said: “The end of the war in Syria is the beginning of a new era of economic relations between the two countries, especially given that Iran and Syria have been beside one another throughout the era of fighting international terrorism.” Iran’s sacrifices and help in supporting the Syrian government were acknowledged by Sameer Khalil who hailed the inseparable ties between the two countries. The Syrian minister expressed the gratitude of his government and the Syrian people for the sacrifices made by Iranian youth in defending Syria.

Reflecting strong bonds between the two countries, Minister Qassemi met President Asad, as well as Syrian ministers of economy and trade, transport, social affairs and labor, and housing and construction. The main focus of their talks was repairing Syrian industry and the reconstruction of infrastructure.

“In Syria, we want extensive cooperation with Iran,” Syria’s Economy and Trade Minister Samer al-Khalil emphasized. He expressed the hope that the meetings the Iranian minister and his “accompanying delegation will hold with Syrian officials will lead to agreements aimed at reaching economic and trade partnerships between the two sides.”

Officials of the two countries have repeatedly expressed their desire to deepen economic and trade ties. For instance, in December 2021, Syria’s Minister of Industry Ziyad Sabbagh invited Iranian companies and advanced industries to invest in his country’s process of reconstruction and recovery. In response to this invitation, Iran’s Vice President for Parliamentary Affairs, Mohammad Hosseini, said Tehran was ready to implement reconstruction projects in Syria.

It is interesting to note that there has also been intensified propaganda claiming that Asad has soured on Iranian presence in his country and would like to see it reduced. In support of this claim, they cite the departure in October 2021 of the commander of Iran’s forces in Syria, General Javad Ghaffari as well as Israeli strikes on Syria that they allege are the result of the presence of Iranian-backed militias. Both assertions are false.

General Ghaffari was set to leave Syria in March 2020 having served for nearly six years but was delayed after the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani. There were several ceremonies held to honour General Ghaffari for his services in defence of Syria and its people. These were attended by high-ranking military and political officials of Syria.

As far as Israeli strikes on Syria are concerned, these are illegal but the Zionist entity has never been constrained by legal niceties. Would Israel stop attacking Syrian positions if all Iranian advisors and Hizbullah fighters left the country? Given Israel’s gangsterism, this is highly unlikely. In fact, the presence of Iranian advisors and Hizbullah act as deterrence against further Israeli aggression.

The allegations that Syria does not want Iranian advisors anymore is part of a disinformation campaign that has been peddled by pro-Zionist think-tanks and anti-Syrian government elements in the US. Lazy journalists working for the London-based Middle East Monitor simply lapped up this propaganda.

If there were any truth to such allegations, one wonders how they would explain the Syrian President’s call to strengthen the Axis of Resistance? At a January 6 ceremony marking the second anniversary of the martyrdom of General Soleimani, Asad’s special advisor Buthaina Shaaban said the Syrian president expressed the need to “work to strengthen communication, harmony and integration in this axis.” To that end, she proclaimed that “the rail and power network between Iran, Iraq and Syria may be a good start to link the countries of the region with open relations.”

On January 17, Press TV reported that agreement to launch the Iran-Iraq rail link was finalized between the two countries during Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Rostam Qassemi’s visit to Baghdad in December. “One of the most important topics of discussion was linking the two countries through the Shalamcheh-Basra railway…” This had been dormant for more than 20 years. “Once completed, it will create an east-west rail transit corridor to the Mediterranean Sea, linking [the] Iranian port of Khorramshahr to Latakia in Syria through Iraq’s Basra,” the Press TV report said.

The Axis of Resistance is getting stronger, thanks to Iran’s self-sacrificing youth and Revolutionary Guard commanders.

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