In a setback to American and Israeli efforts to stall Iranian influence in the Middle East, Syria today signed a new agreement on the subject of military cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The agreement, which comes after years of Iranian support to the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria, signifies a marked change in the region’s spheres of influence.
Such a deal comes at the end of a visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Amir Hatami to Damascus, where he met his counterpart and the Syrian president, Assad.
Although the details of such an agreement between the two countries haven’t been released yet, it is set to further the strong relationship between a war-torn Syria and a heavily-sanctioned Iran. The agreement is fruitful for both countries as while Syria will get much needed foreign capital for its reconstruction programme, Iran will widen its sphere of influence in the region.
The United States and Israel have continued to condemn increased Iranian involvement in Syria; an involvement which they believe endangers the region’s security environment. The United States has also demanded that Iran withdraw all its forces from Syria if the former does want to negotiate terms for a new nuclear agreement and a possible relief from US-imposed sanctions.
Iran however, has remained defiant and has vowed its support for Syria. “No third party can affect the presence of Iranian advisors in Syria,” Hatami declared. Iran will spare no effort to maintain Syria’s territorial integrity, because security in the country will help (improve) regional stability.”
Iran today has thousands of military forces and advisors plus hundreds of Shi’ite militias operating in Syria, especially in and around Damascus. These forces were instrumental in Assad’s bloody victory in the civil war. Therefore, it is unrealistic to expect Iran and Syria to bow down to pressure from Israel and the United States. Further, in light of the new agreement and Iran’s promise to invest in Turkey, it would seem that Iranian influence is here to stay in the Middle East.