Op Ed - Iranian Affairs

Syria Reconstruction between Iran Ambition and Arab Need

Almost one week after the opening of borders between Jordan and Syria, a marked increase in general road traffic has been noticed. The center of Jabir borders near Ramtha city witnessed the passage of more than 3680 passengers including tourists, traders, businessmen, officials and other categories that were eager to see the Syrian lands after a seven-year interval.

The Syrian Crisis not only resulted in a failure that economically exhausted the state, costed a wide number of victims, and isolated the country from its Arabian surroundings, but also had a major negative impact on neighboring countries on all aspects. For example, Jordan that transformed to an overload country in terms of weak economy, the refugees’ crisis and the massive halt of trade movement across Syria. In addition to Jordan, there is Iraq, which suffered from terrorist militias that adopted the Syrian borderlands as safe shelters for them.

Not forgetting the significant Iranian influence on all the above crises, Iran is now trying to win a share in the reconstruction process in Syria, where FM Mohammed Javad Zarif said that his country is seeking to use the opportunity to participate the process as a compensation for ‘Iranian expenses’ during the Syrian war.

Politically, all clues on this issue indicate that Iran has been gradually ruled out from the Syrian case by major parties including Russia and Turkey. When Iran felt that, it tried hard to engage in Syria on all levels, furthermore, their companies and economic entities worked to intensify their official and semi-official business missions to Damascus.

Iranian economic ambition in Syria is shrinking

Within the scheme of a stranglehold on the Iranian activities in the region, sanctions imposed on Iran are widening starting from last month of August to the latest Treasury Sanctions on a vast financial network supporting Iranian paramilitary forces which included two huge financial entities in Iran: Mehr Eqtesad Bank and Bank Mellat.

This kind of sanctions has put many Iranian firms and investment companies that related to the previous two entities on the hot seat. These sanctions spanned major industrial, engineering also other financial and economic companies that have been expected to massively contribute to Syria’s reconstruction process, including:

  • Investment and financial companies such as Mehr Eqtesad Iranian Investment Company, Tadbirgaran Atiyeh Investment Company, Negin Sahel Royal Company, Mehr Eqtesad Financial Group, Taktar Investment Company, and Andisheh Mehvaran Investment Company, also Parsian Bank, Sina Bank, and Bahman Group.
  • Engineering companies such as Technotar Engineering Company.
  • Industrial and petrochemical companies such as Iran Tractor Manufacturing Company (ITMC), the largest tractor manufacturer in the Middle East and North Africa, Iran’s Zinc Mines Development Company (IZMDC), Bandar Abbas Zinc Production Company, Qeshm Zinc Smelting, and Reduction Company, Zanjan Acid Production Company, and Parsian Catalyst Chemical Company. In addition to Esfehan’s Mobarakeh Steel Company, the largest steelmaker in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Let away, the upcoming sanctions that Iran is awaiting next November may hold many surprises for the Iranian regime which knows that the United State administration intentions right now is to curb Iran in the region. Moreover, the Russian role to isolate Iran has become apparent and with the unclear signs from Bashar Assad’s regime and their desire to get Iran’s influence out of Syria, it is clear that they are doing this in order to contain the political and ideological situation within the Syrian society. They simply do not wish to repeat the Iraqi experiment. Also, keep in mind Iran is now trying hard to proceed with economic projects through private missions and individual businessmen in order to at least not lose any available tiny share they have left in Syria.

Finally, according to the latest new realities, the closest allies to Riyadh including Amman, Abu Dhabi, and Manamah in addition to some Iraqi friends, are all possibly make approaches with Damascus either openly to the media or in the backstage, and that gives us a sign of  a Saudi-Syrian future expected approach either directly or through a mediator. Let alone, the leaders of Turkey, Russia, Germany, and France will hold a summit on the Syrian conflict in Istanbul next week on 27 October, and Iran obviously will be absent.

Arab countries need for Syria and vice-versa

No one can deny the strategic and regional importance of Syria, especially for the Arab countries surrounding it. They now need Syrian land as an opportunity to compensate the long period of interval on all levels, further, give a chance for states like Jordan to be tacitly rewarded for its hosting of more than one million refugees and participate in getting Syria back to its normality.

The initial high-level economic missions’ arrival to Jordan last week indicates the above-mentioned theory and the Syrian society eagerness to re-engage with Arabs in its environment once again. To even further give more signs of that, there is expected Gulf-Syrian understanding and openness meetings, and these will conclude an Arab cooperation in the reconstruction process.

In its turn, Syria now is in urgent need for re-bridging relations with Arab countries to the extent of reengaging the Syrian society and prove that they exited the state of isolation on all social, economic and even political levels.

All in all, whoever is going to rule Syria in the future, according to the intended constitution, we are going to witness a phase of positive interaction between the countries of the Middle East without an Iranian existence whether this is by direct situations or coincidence.  This is especially important to note when the strongest party of the Syrian crisis is Russia, who recently become a major destination of an alliance for many Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and UAE.

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