In a move to expand bilateral relations, Iran and Syria signed agreements on this Wednesday concerning oil and trade exchanges.
This Wednesday, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi arrived in Damascus to mark the first state visit by an Iranian president to Syria since the civil war broke out in the Arab country back in 2011.
Welcoming his Iranian counterpart in Syria’s capital city, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad praised the Islamic Republic for helping Syria fight the ISIS terrorists and being ‘alongside Syrian people in hard times’. Assad also welcomed the development of ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, asserting that diplomacy and friendly ways of dispute settlements can lead to a more peaceful region, which is in the interest of all countries.
Referring to the importance of meetings between officials from Syria, Turkey, Russia and Iran in Moscow to help have a calmer and more robust region, the Syrian President said the goal should be to secure the withdrawal of “the occupying forces and halting support to terrorist groups” – an apparent reference to Turkey’s troops in northern Syria and its support for Syrian rebels.
For his part, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi praised Syria for resisting what he described as ‘the US pressure and confronting takfiri terrorists’, a term used to describe jihadists such as Islamic State. “Iran will always stand by Syria … and supports its sovereignty,” Raisi said.
More cooperation on the way between Tehran and Damascus
In addition to exchanging views on regional and global issues during their meeting, the two presidents also inked a long-term strategic cooperation agreement, including a memorandum of understanding on oil industry cooperation, as well as more integration in the trade domain.
According to Iran’s state media report, the country’s export of non-oil products to Syria increased by more than 11 percent in the past year (March 21, 2022 to March 20, 2023) compared to a year before.
While describing the details of Iran’s exports of non-oil products to Syria, Seyed Rouhollah Latifi, the spokesman of the Trade Promotion Commission of Iran’s House of Industry, Mine and Trade, stated that “about 147,000 tons of non-oil goods, valued at over $243 million, were exported to Syria, registering a 10.6 and 11.4 percent growth in weight and value respectively compared to last year”.
Syria’s normalization with Arab states, a strategic victory for Iran
When the civil war erupted in Syria 11 years ago, a group of Gulf states opposed Assad and even sent arms to rebels in Syria in the hope of toppling Assad from power. However, Iran and Russia were among the few countries that helped the Syrian government fight the terrorists and secured Assad’s position as president.
And now, Arab states have come to the conclusion that challenging Assad’s power position in Syria while he has strong allies such as Iran and Russia is beyond their capabilities. In addition, the US withdrawal from the region has made Persian Gulf countries even more certain of accepting the Syrian government as it is.
Therefore, some Arab countries, and especially Saudi Arabia, want to bring Syria’s isolation to an end after 11 years. They now want to bring Syria back into the Arab League and normalize ties with the Assad government. Saudi Arabia would ideally like to be able to welcome Syria back into the league in the next two months. Syria’s foreign minister visited Riyadh in April, the first such visit since the two countries cut relations in 2012.
Maybe that’s why Raisi’s deputy chief of staff for political affairs, Mohammad Jamshidi, said prior to Raisi’s departure to Syria that the visit was a sign of “the Islamic Republic of Iran’s strategic victory in the region”.