Attribution: Christiaan Triebert [CC BY 2.0]
Photo description: Two destroyed tanks in front of a mosque in Azaz, Syria. From March 6 to July 23, a battle between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Syrian government was fought for control over the city of Azaz, north of Aleppo, during the Syrian civil war.
The Syrian civil war is projected to end soon with the triple alliance of Iran-Russia-Syria emerging as a victor of the eight-year bloody conflict. The withdrawal of American troops from Syria and the demise of the insurgency against President Bashar Al-Assad attests this undeniable reality. The Islamic Republic of Iran, more than any other foreign actors, undertook the risk to support the Syrian regime in its struggle to remain in power. Nevertheless, this costly bet has turned out to be in favor of Iran, making this victory as one of the most symbolic and strategic triumphs for the Iranian establishment since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. It is the first time that the Islamic Republic publicly deployed troops and military advisors on the ground to assist a foreign government to directly and indirectly fight “common enemies” that includes US backed-forces, regional actors, and terrorist groups in Syria. More importantly, Iran was not only successful in consolidation of Assad’s position as the key player in political future of Syria but it also guaranteed itself a safe environment to expand its economic, political, and military influence far beyond its borders. With the civil war coming to an end, Iran seeks to receive dividends for its investment and gain a large share in the reconstruction of post-war Syria. This article specifically focuses on the extent of the Iranian role in rebuilding post-war Syria, given its desire to invest in military, security, and financial sectors of the country. Moreover, it examines three main challenges that Iran faces in its endeavors to solidify its stronghold in the country. First, Iran’s strong presence in Syria has been seriously opposed and challenged by the US and its regional allies especially Israel. Second, Iran and Syria are both currently under crippling sanctions with restricted access to the global financial system, which complicates the banking relations, namely monetary transactions between the two countries. More importantly, sanctions on Iran have hampered Iran’s capability to compete with other actors including Russia and China in the reconstruction of Syria. Third, Tehran does not enjoy the economic and political power of its rivals, placing it in a disadvantage position in Syria. Furthermore, it is quite inexperienced in comparison with Russia when it comes to foreign direct investment (FDI) in the sophisticated sectors of the Syrian economy. Despite these challenges, Iran seems unwavering to continue on this adventurous path to establish its very first official political, military, and economic base in the region outside of its borders.
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