The chief commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards corps (I.R.G.C.) has revealed that the Guards, rather than the Iranian private sector or other state-run companies, will spearhead Syria’s reconstruction efforts, Tasnim News Agency reported. “Based on meetings held in the government, it was decided that this mission [participation in Syria’s rebuilding] should be assigned to Sepah [I.R.G.C.] because of the security situation in Syria,” Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said at a gathering in Tehran. “Of course it is up to the Syrian government to decide to what extent Iran should participate in in the reconstruction [of Syria]. But the initial work for this mission is underway,” the I.R.G.C. commander added.

Comment: Tehran has recently stepped up efforts to play a major role in Syria’s rebuilding and become the Arab country’s leading trade partner. And as Jafari indicated, the I.R.G.C. will be the sole beneficiary. In September, the Iranian government signed several agreements with Damascus to restore Syria’s power grid and infrastructure. Iran and Venezuela are also set to start constructing an oil refinery in Syria by this year’s end, according to a senior official of Iran’s Research Center of Petroleum Industry (R.I.P.I.). And the main beneficiary of growing Iranian role in Syria’s economy appears to be the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps.

The I.R.G.C., which is heavily involved in Iran’s economy and carries out projects outside Iran, has propped up the embattled Assad regime in the past six years and is now seeking financial rewards for its role. Since the seizure of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo in December, the Syrian government has granted I.R.G.C. companies lucrative contracts on a no-bidding basis. When Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis visited Tehran in January, for example, the Iranian government signed several agreements with the Syrian delegation. One major contract to build a mobile phone network in Syria was awarded to the I.R.G.C.-affiliated Mobile Telecommunication Company of Iran – delivering Iran’s elite military force an additional source of revenue. As in Lebanon, the I.R.G.C. is complementing its hard power mission with economic projects and other soft power strategies to consolidate its long-term presence and influence in Syria.

Jafari’s comments are also the latest indication that the Rouhani government, contrary to President Hassan Rouhani's campaign promises, is unserious about reining in the I.R.G.C. economically.

The Middle East Institute (MEI) is an independent, non-partisan, non-for-profit, educational organization. It does not engage in advocacy and its scholars’ opinions are their own. MEI welcomes financial donations, but retains sole editorial control over its work and its publications reflect only the authors’ views. For a listing of MEI donors, please click here.