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PoliticsMiddle East

Syria's Assad pays rare visit to ally Iran

May 8, 2022

Syrian President Bashar Assad has visited Iran for only the second time since the civil war broke out in his country. The two nations are united by their enmity toward Israel.

 Ali Khamenei and a masked Bashar Assad in Tehran
Syrian President Bashar Assad met with Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during his visitImage: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader /AP/picture alliance

Syrian President Bashar Assad paid a short visit to Tehran on Sunday, meeting with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi during his brief sojourn, according to Iranian and Syrian media.

It was only the second visit Assad has made to Iran since Syria's civil war began in 2011, although Tehran has been a consistent supporter of the Damascus regime and has given it financial and military support during the 11-year conflict.

Assad's last reported visit to Iran took place in February 2019.

What was said during the visit?

According to Iranian state television, Khamenei told Assad that "today's Syria is not what it was before the war [...] but the respect and prestige of Syria is greater than before, and everyone sees this country as a power."

Assad was quoted as saying that "the strategic ties between Iran and Syria have prevented the Zionist regime's [Israel's] dominance in the region."

Assad also reportedly said that strong relations between Iran and Syria served to curb US influence in the Middle East.

"America today is weaker than ever,'' Syrian state news agency SANA quoted Assad as saying. "We should continue this track,'' he added, and praised Iran's help in Syria's "fight against terrorism.''

Iran's President Raisi said in his meeting with Assad that his government's priority was to strengthen strategic ties with Syria, Iran's half state-owned Tasnim news agency reported.

Bashar Assad and Ebrahim Raisi
Assad also held talks with Iranian President Ebrahim RaisiImage: AFP

What is Iran's relationship to Syria?

Iran's leadership sees Syria as a close ally in its opposition to its regional archenemy Israel.

Iran's economic influence in Syria has also grown in recent years, with Tehran offering credit lines to the Damascus government and Iranian companies winning lucrative business contracts.

Tehran has also given crucial military and financial assistance to Assad in the Syrian civil war, saying it has deployed forces in Syria at the invitation of Damascus, but only as advisers.

Iran's proxy militias, including Lebanon's Hezbollah, are, however, known to have given active support to Syrian government forces in the conflict.

With the help of both Iran and Russia, which entered the fray in 2015, Assad has managed to turn the tide of the conflict, with only a few opposition strongholds now remaining.

The civil war in Syria grew out of initially peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations inspired by the so-called Arab Spring movement but gradually turned into a bloody and protracted war involving several actors following a brutal government clampdown.

The estimated death toll from the war is 400,000, with millions of others displaced both internally and externally.

Idlib refugee camps suffer from fires, flooding

 tj/fb (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)