Iran Expands Economic Reach In Oil-Rich Syria

Tehran appears to have succeeded in improving its economic relations with Syria and steadily increasing Iranian exports there. It continues its efforts to tighten its control over the governorate of Deir ez-Zor, known for its agricultural and oil wealth. Iran is thus working both on military and economic aspects to compensate for the material losses it incurred in defending the Syrian regime.

Meanwhile, the Russians are trying to grab the bulk of investments in Syria, especially in oil and gas and reconstruction, without taking into account the interests of the Iranians and the agreements signed with the Syrian side. Conflicting agreements and contracts in certain sectors, mainly in the fields of oil and gas, between Iran and Russia can lead to disputes in this regard.

Iran has used Syrian and Arab institutions and figures to cover its economic activity and investments in Deir ez-Zor, which are funded by international organizations defined as “humanitarian associations that help Syrians affected by war”. During this time he sign contracts for the restoration of schools, roads and bridges, approved by Syrian regime officials in Deir ez-Zor.

Political analyst Hassan al-Nifi told Al-Monitor: “Iranian influence in Syria is no longer limited to military and political control. Iran has bigger ambitions and has started to develop new strategies to dominate the Syrian economy, through investments in the tourism and trade sectors.

He said, “Iran’s desire to dominate the oil-rich city of Deir ez-Zor stems from Washington’s control. Iran is trying to harvest whatever it can to have economic and military dominance in Syria, especially as Russia has taken over underground resources and energy.

It seems that these humanitarian organizations injected large sums into restoration operations, exceeding what had been allocated. Large reconstruction operations have been carried out in al-Bukamal and its countryside where dozens of schools have been renovated, as well as in the extremely important villages of al-Suway’iya and al-Hari on the Syrian-Iraqi border. for Iran because of their proximity to the al-Qaim border post and the passage controlled by pro-Iranian Iraqi Popular Mobilization units. Besides the families of the Iranian militiamen settled in these two villages, in addition to al-Bukamal.

Anas Shawakh, researcher at Jusoeur for studies, told Al-Monitor: “Iran has relied on humanitarian organizations in Deir ez-Zor since the regime regained control in 2017, as a source of funding for its military presence in the region. These organizations include Imam al-Kadhum for development, Imam al-Mukhtar Foundation and Al Fourat for peace. Iran benefits from this funding in several ways, in particular by directing the financial support allocated to these organizations in the service of its project to disseminate Shiism in the region through the distribution of aid or the establishment of small and medium-sized projects. of services in certain regions.

He noted: “Iran is doing this to retain the people of these areas or to benefit from this support by funding its militiamen and providing them and their families with food and medical aid. In addition, several Iranian charities provide medical services and aid to members of the regime forces, the National Defense Forces and the Baath Brigades. All these local institutions and associations are managed by the Iranian Cultural Chancellery in Damascus. “

The official page of Deir ez-Zor Governorate released information on funds Iranian organizations operating in Syria receive from the United Nations, noting that more than Syrian pounds 2 billion has been provided for three projects in the region.

Shawakh added that the large sums of money these organizations get from bogus construction contracts are used to cover military expenses and pay their members’ salaries. The extent of Iran’s military spending in Syria is not known.

Meanwhile, Fadel Abdul Ghany, director of Syrian Network for Human Rights, told Al-Monitor, “Iran is not only seeking to compensate for its losses, but also seeks to stay in Syria for the long term. It focuses on Deir ez-Zor as it is close to the Iraqi border, which makes it easier to provide support. Iran has established dozens of charitable and nonprofit organizations in several parts of Syria, as part of a broad campaign to strengthen its influence and monopolize the delivery of services and humanitarian aid in areas areas of strategic importance for Tehran. No one will be able to separate the Iranian regime from the Syrian regime, as both have built strong networks within state and society. “

He said: “The establishment by Iran of at least 38 organizations operating in Aleppo, Homs, Damascus, Deraa, Deir ez-Zor, Latakia, Hama and Quneitra is an attempt to pave the way for an Iranian presence in long term in Syria and a step forcing international institutions and the UN to work with him and finance him so that he can steal the aid allocated to the Syrian people. This is one of the reasons everyone refuses to provide humanitarian aid across northwestern Syria because it will be seized there.

Because these organizations define themselves as humanitarian, they specialize in all areas of service, awareness, development and intervention, such as food and financial aid.

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