Despite American and Israeli efforts pushing for Tehran’s complete withdrawal from Syria, Iran said Monday that it had agreed to a deal to deepen military cooperation with Syria, reaffirming its intention to remain in the country.
As reported by Iran’s semi-official Tasnim News Agency, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami, who travelled to Syria with a ranking military delegation, signed the bilateral agreement in Damascus after talks with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and Defense Minister General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub.
Under the agreement, Iran and Syria will enhance military and defense cooperation.
“Syria is moving out of crisis and entering the reconstruction phase,” the Iranian defense minister said, adding that the agreement with Syria defines the grounds for Tehran-Damascus defense cooperation.
What now? The United States and Israel have been pushing the Russians to get Iran out of Syria; a point re-iterated last week by U.S. national security adviser John Bolton. With Moscow acknowledging that it does not have the ability to force Iran out of the country and al-Assad now deepening military cooperation with Tehran, tensions are sure to rise. As a response to Iran’s increased military presence, Israel may ramp up air strikes on Syrian/Iranian military targets across the country and the U.S may provide more arms and supplies to Syrian rebel groups.
Bottom line: Iran isn’t going anywhere and if anything, its footprint in Syria is likely to increase. This agreement also provides Iran with a strong bargaining chip should it decide to negotiate with the Trump administration.
Cover photo: Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami, left, meeting with his Syrian counterpart Abdullah Ayoub in