The Syrian government greatly appreciates Tehran's unwavering support in “the fight against terrorism” over the past years and now wants Iran to play an active role in the war-torn country’s reconstruction and economic development, Syria’s Prime Minister Imad Khamis said in a meeting with Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani on Sunday. The Syrian prime minister, who had traveled to Tehran to participate in President Hassan Rouhani’s swearing-in ceremony, added that the security and political situation in Syria was improving but the country’s biggest challenge now is to revive its shattered economy. “Now that we are at phase of reconstruction and economic development, the Islamic Republic of Iran can assist us in this process. And this can be another turning point in cooperation between these two countries,” the Syrian prime minister stressed. Khamis accused the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia of supporting terrorists and destabilizing the region. “But we do not allow them to reach their goals,” he said. He emphasized that Syria and Iran will continue their shared “resistance” against the common enemies. “We are confident that together we can stand up to the enemies and reach victory.”  

Larijani reiterated Tehran’s continued support to Damascus, hailed latest military victories by Damascus and its allies, and hoped that the “resistance” will continue until the “ultimate victory.”

Comment: The Syrian government is heavily indebted to Tehran for the latter’s military support over the past six years as the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) and its Lebanese, Iraqi and Afghan proxies have played a key role in shifgting the tide of war in favor of Bashar al-Assad. Khamis mentioned in his meeting with Larijani that the latest victories on the ground would not have been possible without Iran’s assistance.

While the war in Syria is far from over, the I.R.G.C. has already stepped up efforts to dominate Syria’s economic sector and expand Iran’s soft power influence over Syria. In January, Tehran signed several agreements with Damascus, including building a mobile phone network in Syria as well as mining and agricultural projects. The agreements were signed during a visit to Tehran by a high-level Syrian delegation led by Khamis.

There is little doubt that it will be companies owned by or affiliated with the I.R.G.C. that will carry out these projects in Syria. The I.R.G.C. already controls much of Iran’s telecommunications sector, and building Syria’s mobile network will also provide the I.R.G.C. and its elite Quds Force with a valuable intelligence and surveillance tool. The projects in Syria – as in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon – will also bring added revenues to the I.R.G.C. 

In late June, Iranian Ambassador to Damascus Javad Torkabadi said the Islamic Republic was ready to help Syria’s reconstruction after the defeat of the Islamic State in the country. “Many companies in Iran are ready to help Syria in the housing and reconstruction fields rendering their best services now that victory is in sight in Syria after a protracted battle,” he was quoted as telling Syrian Minister of Housing Hussein Arnus at a meeting in Damascus. The Syrian minister, on his part, reportedly said his country needed Iran’s help in “infrastructural projects.” Last week, Torkabadi also met with Syria’s Minister of Agriculture Ahmad al-Qadri to discuss the implementation of bilateral agreements on agricultural projects the two countries had signed earlier.

Separately, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, also said that Iran was keen to share its reconstruction expertise with the Syrian government. “Iran will provide assistance in rebuilding Syria by sharing earlier experiences in reconstruction carried out after the Imposed War against Iraq,” he told Mohammad al-Ammouri, the secretary general of Syria’s Prime Minister Office. The Syrian official reportedly welcomed Iran’s offer and stressed that joint economic investments and presence of Iranian firms in Syria will help the war-torn nation’s reconstruction and lead to deeper relations between the two countries.