Iran and Syria signed a deal underlining defense and technical cooperation during Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami’s visit to Damascus Sunday. The deal is meant to “reiterate Tehran’s commitment to Syria’s security,” Iranian state media reported.

Hatami said that the new understanding “will define the areas of bilateral presence, participation and cooperation.” Iran indicated that Syria was now entering an era of “reconstruction” and that the war was winding down. Tehran indicated that it would play a key role in rebuilding Syria.

Iran’s Press TV said that Hatami’s counterpart, General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, stressed the importance of not allowing outside countries to “cause damage to the strong and firm relations of the two countries,” a clear jibe at both the US and Israel. In recent months both Washington and Jerusalem have said that Iran and its forces must be removed from Syria.

A US Department of Defense Inspector General report from early August said that Iran has 3,000 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members in Syria at 10 military bases and up to 40 other positions throughout the country.

Syrian state media has also heralded the visit’s importance, a clear sign that both Syria and Iran want to show off the military cooperation and the official connections between Tehran and Damascus in light of US pressure for Iran to leave.

Iran says that it is helping Syria to “fight terrorism” and that they are resisting US efforts to “destabilize” the region, a response to US claims that Iran is “destabilizing” the region.

Earlier this month US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo established an Iran Action Group that will coordinate US interagency work to confront Iran’s role in the region. National Security Advisor John Bolton and US Secretary of Defense James Mattis have both emphasized Iran’s regional threats.

The notion that Iran will wind down operations in Syria and can be pressured to leave has been belied by the current Defense Minister’s visit.

Hatami’s visit is only the visible and official side of a much larger network of Iranian influence in Syria that extends to various Iranian-backed militias and the IRGC.

Damascus is using the visit to openly court Iran and also send a message to Moscow in the wake of Bolton’s claims in Jerusalem that Moscow did not share Iran’s interests in Syria.

Hatami referenced 40 years of military cooperation in his discussions, according to Syrian state media. The details of what the new defense cooperation could mean, including the “technology” involved are unclear. Iran recently claimed to unveil a new warplane and Iran has continued the development of ballistic missiles. The Iranian message in Damascus was that Iran is in Syria to stay.

Source » jpost