The civil war in Syria is coming to an end and the presence of the Islamic State has been mitigated. Then begins a race to obtain economic influence in Syria and, with it, political influence. The reconstruction period is a perfect opportunity for Iran to consolidate its position as a regional power and, thus, diminish the effects of economic sanctions against it and stop relying so much on Russia. On the other hand, Russia will intensify its presence in Syria to ensure its bastion in the Middle East.
Russia has had a close relationship with the Syrian government since the Cold War. In the middle of the last century, the Arab nations became independent from the European colonial empires. Wanting to assert their position as independent nations, many of their governments adopted an anti-imperialist discourse. Likewise, many adopted an anti-American stance since EE. UU it is, to a large extent, the greatest ally of European interests. To reaffirm this discourse, many Arab governments approached the anti-American power par excellence: the Soviet Union. The Arab countries resorted to Russian support in economic and military matters. This represented an opportunity for the Soviet Union to strengthen its military activity and counteract the presence of the United States. in the Middle East. Due to its strategic location, Syria was one of the nations that received the greatest Soviet support.
Russia’s support for the Syrian government has been crucial for the regime of Bashar Al-Assad not to fall despite the outbreak of the Arab Spring. In 2015, for example, Russia sent military forces to Syria in support of the Al-Assad regime, despite warnings from NATO countries.
While the civil war has not officially ended, the army led by Bashar Al-Assad prevailed over the other factions, including those supported by the US. UU At the end of 2018, Bashar Al-Assad regained control over the capital, Damascus, and both Iran and Russia have expressed their willingness to assist in the process of economic recovery.
According to a report by Oxford Analytica, it is estimated that Iran has invested more than 40 MMD in Syria. This includes projects in energy, manufacturing, transportation, construction and trade credits. To counter US sanctions, Iran is promoting agreements for the economic integration of the region under its auspices.
For its part, Russia is focusing on strengthening Syrian institutions. Severe damage to transportation networks and high levels of corruption complicate doing business. Therefore, Russia’s strategy is to rebuild the government in order to monitor “from above” the process of economic recovery and to have political leverage in future negotiations to which the Syrian government reaches.
In other words, Iran is expanding trade relations while Russia is focusing on strengthening government institutions. Oxford Analytica researchers mention that there is no violent confrontation between the two countries, given that their strategies are different. However, it is necessary to monitor activity in the reconstruction phase to anticipate the future of the Middle East and the diplomacy that, for now, has Western countries on the sidelines.
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