The recent visit of the Iranian regime’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, to Damascus has raised questions about its purpose, particularly in the context of the ongoing uprising in Syria against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. The trip, as reported by the state-run Fars news agency on August 30, was framed by Amir-Abdollahian as part of “Iran’s strategy to strengthen regional and neighboring policies and expedite the implementation of agreements between Iran and Syria”. The MFA’s official line of explanation emphasized “Iran’s commitment to stability, peace, and the preservation of Syria’s territorial integrity.”
However, it’s essential to view such statements from Iranian authorities in the context of their foreign policy history which has a track record of employing deception, extortion, and propaganda.
Amir-Abdollahian’s trip to Syria marks his seventh visit to the country since assuming the position of Foreign Minister. His personal statement on social media sheds light on the real purpose of his trip. At the end of his post on X (formerly Twitter), he says, “Iran emphasizes the necessity of establishing stability and peace and maintaining sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
در چارچوب تقویت سیاست منطقهی همسایگی و به منظور تسریع در اجرای توافقات روسای جمهور دو کشور عازم دمشق هستم.
در خصوص آخرین تحولات منطقهای و بین المللی با مقامات عالی سوریه گفتگو و رایزنی خواهم داشت.
ایران بر ضرورت برقراری ثبات و آرامش و حفظ حاکمیت و تمامیت ارضی 🇸🇾تاکید دارد.
— H.Amirabdollahian امیرعبداللهیان (@Amirabdolahian) August 30, 2023
The Syrian uprising, which began in March 2011, was met with brutal violence by the Assad regime. Through the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, the Iranian regime, a staunch ally of the Assad regime, played an active role in suppressing the Syrian uprising from its inception. Now, as protests have resurged in the past few weeks, Tehran appears to be collaborating with Damascus to quash these dissenting voices. Amir-Abdollahian’s visit, as he openly suggests, is geared towards preserving Syria’s sovereignty, which, in practice, translates to upholding the rule of Bashar al-Assad and suppressing the Syrian people.
It’s worth noting that the regime’s involvement in Syria goes beyond political support. Reports indicate that, during a devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria last year, the IRGC Quds Force exploited the situation by sending a significant number of arms and munitions to Syria under the guise of humanitarian aid.
Furthermore, the clerical regime has been funneling vast sums of money into Syria, with estimates ranging from 30 to 50 billion dollars, as revealed by insiders and government-owned classified material obtained by the “Ghiyam ta Sarnegouni” group.
This massive financial commitment raises eyebrows, especially considering the dire economic conditions endured by the Iranian population, who are grappling with severe hardships.
So, what could be the driving force compelling the Iranian regime to allocate these substantial funds to Syria? While numerous speculations abound, the overriding motivation appears to be the preservation of its own regime. Insiders contend that the regime is constantly trying to conduct damage control, shifting its focus from domestic dissent to preserving strategic allies abroad at the same time.
Mehdi Ta’eb head of the Strategic Council of Ammar Headquarters candidly remarked in February 2013, “Syria is our thirty-fifth province and holds great strategic importance for us. If the enemy were to attack us and aim to take Syria or Khuzestan, our priority would be to retain Syria, as doing so would enable us to recapture Khuzestan. However, if we lose Syria, we may not be able to hold onto Tehran.”
Remarkably, the IRGC-run Fars news agency promptly removed statements made by the slain IRGC commander Hossein Hamedani back in April 2014, mere hours after they were published. His words painted a revealing picture: “Today, we are fighting in Syria for interests such as the Islamic Revolution, and our defense extends to the level of a sacred defense [regime’s term to refer to the Iran-Iraq War]… 42 groups and 128 battalions, comprising 70,000 Islamic youth of different sects, including Alawites, Sunnis, and Shiites, have been mobilized under the banner of the National Mobilization and have taken charge of the security of Syrian cities and provinces… Today, 130,000 Basij members, trained and prepared, are waiting to enter Syria.”
#Iranian Regime Continues to Recruit Child Soldiers to Fight on Its Behalf
The Basij militia is said to be recruiting child soldiers from Afghanistan to fight on Iran’s behalf in #Syria.https://t.co/zslkAbrjSX pic.twitter.com/PMMQfBHDxx
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) October 25, 2018
Former MP Mahmoud Nabavian stated in February 2014, “We brought 150,000 Syrians to Iran and provided them with military training, and we trained another 150,000 on-site and sent 50,000 Hezbollah forces there.”
Also, Javad Karimi Ghoddousi, a member of the National Security Commission of the regime’s parliament, revealed in November 2013 in Mashhad, “Hundreds of groups from Iran are present in Syria. Although you hear about the Syrian army’s victories from a Syrian commander, behind the scenes, there are Iranian forces.”
Beyond these military interests, Iran’s involvement in Syria serves other purposes. Syria has become a significant source of income for smuggling networks connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Notably, Syria acts as a conduit for narcotics trafficking. Additionally, the phosphate mines in Syria bear strategic importance for the regime’s nuclear program, particularly for uranium enrichment initiatives. Syria stands as one of the few countries capable of circumventing international sanctions and facilitating money laundering with remarkable ease.
In any case, all signs indicate that Hossein Amir Abdollahian’s visit aims to suppress the recent Syrian uprisings against Bashar al-Assad. As domestic discontent grows, the Iranian regime is counting on international inaction while attempting to quell unrest both at home and in Syria. The success of this endeavor in 2023 hinges on the bravery of the people in both nations and the conscience of the international community.