Iran is trying to recoup the financial losses it suffered as a result of its intervention in the Syrian decade long war by signing trade, economic and financial agreements with the Syrian regime and implementing commercial projects.
But economists believe these efforts are likely to bear little fruit, given the heavy competition companies affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) face in Syria, particularly from Russia.
“The Russian-Iranian competition is clearly evident in Syria,” said Syrian economist and Damascus University lecturer Mahmoud Mustafa.
Both sides are vying to secure the largest piece of the reconstruction pie as compensation for the money they have spent to keep the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in power.
But it is evident that Iran’s share of new business opportunities has not met the Iranian regime’s aspirations and estimates, as it had hoped for a huge return on its investment in the shortest possible timeframe.
This can be attributed to the influence of Russia, which historically has exerted control over several revenue-generating facilities, such as the phosphate mines in the eastern desert of Badiya and commercial ports in Tartus and Latakia.
Mustafa said nothing is left for Iran at the present time, other than the trans-regional land route it has been attempting to establish for some time, which connects Iran to Syria via Iraq.
This serves as a trade conduit for basic electrical goods and foodstuffs that do not generate the level of revenue the Iranian leaders expected, he said.
According to economics professor Shaher Abdullah, Iran is trying to cash in on reconstruction activity revenue and boost commercial ties via the establishment of an Iranian Trade Centre in the heart of the free zone in Damascus.
Having presence in the free zone exempts Iranian companies from taxes and gives them the freedom to act and make commercial and reconstruction-related deals, he said.
The 4,000-square metre, 12-floor commercial centre is “massive in size”, he said, and currently houses 25 Iranian legal, financial investment, insurance, shipping and transportation companies.
Through it, Iranian companies communicate with Syrian private companies and the government sector to bid on tenders and obtain new contracts that are expected to bring money to the Iranian treasury.
According to 2020 report from the Atlantic Council, estimates of Iran’s actual military and economic spending in Syria range from $30 billion to $105 billion in the first seven years of the decade long war alone.
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