In the coming days, Iran and Syria should sign an agreement on strategic partnership. His last details were discussed this week in Damascus by an Iranian government delegation. Tehran claims a leading role in the restoration of the Syrian economy. Rather, it seeks to protect its investments in this country during the years of military conflict. According to experts, Tehran fears that as the situation in Syria normalizes, other countries, including Russia, will try to oust it from there.
Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis and Iran’s First Vice President Iskhak Jahangiri must sign a number of agreements (including a “strategic document” on economic and cultural partnership) at a high-level meeting on economic cooperation to be held in the coming days. This was reported by the Iranian IRNA agency. The Iranian delegation, represented by experts from several ministries headed by Deputy Minister of Transport and Urban Development Amir Amini, was in charge of the meeting this week in Damascus. According to him, Tehran expects that Iranian investors and producers will play an important role in the post-war reconstruction of Syria.
The delegation’s task was to agree on the last details of the “strategic document”, which brings together the previously signed agreements. We are talking about cooperation in the banking and customs sectors, the industrial sector, information technologies, the creation of small enterprises, water supply networks and power transmission lines, as well as investments in all sectors of the Syrian economy, primarily those that require restoration.
According to the Minister of Economy of Syria, Samer al-Khalil, quoted by IRNA, Tehran and Damascus have agreements in many areas, but “most of them require revision, development and revitalization.”
The official stressed that the economic relations between the two countries have not reached the level of cultural and public relations. In addition, he noted the need to create joint banks for trade development, as well as the transition to local currency in mutual settlements, in order to avoid the negative consequences of US sanctions against the two countries.
The war in Syria completely changed its economic and financial ties. In 2004-2010, the country was the fourth in terms of received investment from other Arab countries, primarily the Persian Gulf. The union between Syria, Turkey and Qatar was especially active. In particular, in 2008 Ankara allocated $ 6.3 million for 42 joint projects within the Syrian-Turkish interregional cooperation program. The trade turnover between the countries has grown approximately three times. In 2010, Syrian exports to Turkey were about $ 662 million, imports – $ 1.85 billion. Iran’s trade with Syria in this period amounted, according to the Iranian media, about $ 500 million.
With the outbreak of the conflict in Syria, Iran was the only sponsor of the Syrian authorities. In January 2013, Tehran opened the first credit line for $ 1 billion, turned up under the international sanctions of Damascus, thanks to which the government was able to pay for imported food. Then followed a loan of $ 3.6 billion for the purchase of petroleum products. The third loan was received in 2015, and again by $ 1 billion. Tehran also allocated funds to Damascus to pay salaries to civil servants, which helped to preserve state institutions in Syria. In 2012, an agreement on free trade began to operate between the countries, and in 2014 the commodity turnover rose to $ 1 billion (though, then fell again). The amount of financing by Iran for Shiite troops fighting in Syria is unknown. According to the Arab newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Iran annually spends about $ 12.7 billion in Syria, including payments to its military advisors in that country and pro-Iranian militias, as well as the supply of weapons. Of this amount, as the newspaper notes, less than $ 2 billion can be returned to Iran as a result of trade transactions.
At the same time, the Iranian media is increasingly questioning how much Tehran’s investments in Syria will pay off, especially against the backdrop of the difficult economic situation in Iran itself.
In 2018 among the slogans of street protests there began to appear such as “Leave Syria, engage in us”. Now the authorities want to demonstrate that the Iranian investments were not in vain.
It coincided that simultaneously with the launch of the Astana format in 2017 in Syria, Russia, Turkey and Iran, Tehran stepped up the conclusion of economic contracts with Damascus. In January 2017, five memorandums of understanding were signed. According to media reports, the Iranian mobile operator got an opportunity to work in Syria. Iran was also promised access to phosphate mining in mines in the Palmyra area. True, six months later it became known that the development of phosphate deposits was occupied by Russia. In January 2017, an agreement was also reached on the construction of an oil terminal in Syria on an area of 5,000 hectares, the same site was planned to be allocated to Iran and for agricultural land, and in September an agreement was signed on restoring power capacities in the provinces of Latakia and Deir ez Zor , as well as in Aleppo and Damascus. According to Western media, the majority of such contracts in Syria are implemented by companies associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The tenth International meeting on Syria in the Astana format ended. The tenth International meeting on Syria in the Astana format ended. “Iran strives at any cost to strengthen its influence in Syria . While his political presence is ahead of the economic one. Tehran wants to compensate its costs in this country, “Samir Seifan, a Syrian economist living in Qatar, told Kommersant. At the same time, he stressed that Syria now has little to offer outside the reconstruction process, which, according to Damascus, requires $ 400 billion. However, according to the expert, while Iran maintains its presence in Syria, the West will not provide money for the reconstruction of this country. In addition, the US and the EU do not intend to invest in the restoration of Syria before the political settlement of the situation in this country. “Any discussion on the restoration in the absence of a political solution is premature,” the US State Department said on Wednesday. Against this background, Tehran is trying to link Damascus with legally binding agreements.
According to the diplomatic sources of Kommersant newspaper in Syria, they do not like everyone in Damascus. Earlier, the Syrian opposition also called the prisoners of the Syrian-Iranian contracts “looting.” “When it comes to reconstruction in Syria, the participants in the Astana process may begin to disagree. In Iran they see that Russia, Turkey, Germany and France are practically starting a new process connected with the restoration of Syria. And Tehran is stepping up efforts not to remain on the sidelines, “Tehran Shahid Beheeshti Hamidrez Azizi University Teacher said to Kommersant. In late July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that a summit on Syria is planned for September 7 in Istanbul leaders of Russia, France and Germany. In Tehran, this news was apprehended cautiously. “Iran is ready for any scenario, including one in which other players, including Russia, can push it aside,” Mr. Azizi said. However, as Dmitry Peskov, the presidential press secretary, said yesterday, the summit in Istanbul “is not yet on the agenda in an agreed form”. At the same time, he confirmed the holding of the meeting scheduled for the beginning of September in the Astana format in Tehran.