According to the Saudi newspaper “Al-Sharq al-Awsat”, published in London, Russia and Israel are trying to put pressure on Iran to withdraw its forces (Iranian and pro-Iranian) from Syria. However, for the publication, Tehran intends to “reap the rewards” of its investments in Syria, which it estimates at about $ 30 billion in recent years.
The assessment of Iranian investments in Syria, both military and civilian, was proposed by Mansour Farhang, an American scientist and former Iranian diplomat.
Nadim Shehadi, a Middle East expert at the School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts Fletcher University in the United States, estimates that Iran spends about $15 billion a year in Syria, and he estimates the total Iranian investment in Syria at about $105 billion.
The bulk of these investments are mainly due to the setting-up of military bases for the stationing of its own armed forces in Syria, for the recruitment and training of Shiite militiamen from the Middle East and South Asia and for the indemnification of the families of killed and wounded personnel.
There are currently 11 Iranian military bases in Syria, 15 Hezbollah bases and 9 pro-Iranian or other Shiite militia bases according to al-Shark al Awsat. These bases are located throughout Syria – to the west near the border with Lebanon, to the east near the border with Iraq and to the north near the border with Turkey. Iran is also seeking to establish a military base in southern Syria, near the border with Israel and Jordan, to which Israel, the United States and Russia have declared themselves resolutely opposed.
As al-Shark al Awsat reports, Iranians are investing heavily in civilian projects in Syria. In particular, through the Islamic Charity Fund “Jihad al-Bina”, Tehran has financed the reconstruction of schools, roads and infrastructure in Aleppo or other cities destroyed by the fighting (the same fund had financed the restoration of southern Beirut after the war between Hezbollah and Israel in the summer of 2006).
In recent months, Iranian companies have won the Syrian government’s tender to supply agricultural machinery, produce phosphates, repair electricity grids and produce sugar.
The Iranians effectively control much of the Syrian-Iraqi border, major roads linking a number of strategically important areas in eastern Syria and one of the main water pipelines.
Tehran has granted significant loans to Damascus: at least 4.5 billion dollars from 2013.
Analysts quoted by “Al-Sharq Al-Awsat” believe that Iran will withdraw from Syria only in the unlikely event of a military defeat of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Nadim Shehadi thinks that the Iranians can make tactical concessions, so as not to spoil their relations with Moscow, but they will certainly remain in Syria.
Many Iranian media have published editorials in recent days strongly criticising Russian leaders for their dealings with Israel. For example, an Israeli blogger “Abu Ali” drew attention to one of these publications in the Iranian newspaper “Eve” (close to Iranian President Hassan Rohani), where Russian President Vladimir Putin is called a “liar” and accused of negotiating with Israelis “behind the backs” of Iranian and Syrian allies.
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