Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Iranians Keep In With Syrians Via Investment

(19-Dec-08)
By IWPR
Although the focus is often on political connections between Damascus and Tehran, some analysts believe it is the growing economic relationship that is really worth watching.



Iran has invested an estimated 900 million US dollars in Syria’s ailing economy to date, according to a report in the state newspaper Al-Thawra.



Two major projects launched late last year were a new production line at the state-owned Hamat Cement Factory, and a vehicle assembly plant developed by Iranian carmaker SAIPA.



In the same report, Syrian economy and trade minister Amir Husni Lutfi said the relationship had progressed from one of “reciprocal interest and political benefits” to become a “strategic alliance” paying economic dividends.



“A free trade zone is developing between Syria and Iran,” he added, noting that bilateral trade in 2007 showed a 90 per cent increase on the previous year.



Adnan Abdul Razzaq, economics editor for the ruling party paper Al-Baath, said he expected the improved economic relationship to create more than 150,000 new jobs in Syria next year.



“The momentum will drive the Syrian economy forward, as well as reduce unemployment,” he said.



Qadri Jamil, an economic researcher in Damascus, believes Iran has strengthened economic ties with Syria out of necessity.



“Iran, with its nuclear ambitions, is threatened now more than ever before by the possibility that Israel or America might conduct a sudden attack. So it needs to keep the Syrian regime as its ally,” he said. “Iran is basically bribing the Syrian regime by launching these projects and investments.”



(Syria News Briefing, a weekly news analysis service, draws on information and opinion from a network of IWPR-trained Syrian journalists based in the country.)