Iran Syria Free Trade Agreement

The Syrian government is heavily indebted for its support of Tehran, with the I.R.G.C and their regional deputies playing an important role in Assad`s survival. So it`s no surprise that the I. R.G.C is now seeking financial dividends and is hiring Damascus. During Prime Minister Imad Khamis` visit to Tehran in January, the Iranian government signed several agreements with the Syrian delegation. A large-scale contract to set up a mobile phone network in Syria has been awarded to the Mobile Telecommunications Company of Iran, linked to the I.R.. C G., which provided the iranian elite military force with an additional source of revenue. The I.R.G.C. already controls much of Iran`s telecommunications sector, and the deployment of the Syrian mobile network will also provide the I.R.G.C. and its elite Quds force with a valuable surveillance and intelligence tool. In January, Iran and Syria agreed on the creation of an Iranian shopping mall in the Damascus Free Zone. The decision was taken during a visit by an Iranian economic delegation to Syria. Last month, when Syria opened the first international trade show in six years, Iran was the largest participant, with more than 30 Iranian companies participating in the event. On the sidelines of the event, the Iranian delegation asked Syrian Economy and Trade Minister Mohammad Samer al-Khalil to hire a special envoy to implement a free trade agreement between the two countries.

In the latest sign that Tehran is trying to expand its sphere of economic influence in Syria, the Iranian government on Tuesday signed several agreements with Damascus to restore Syria`s electricity grid and infrastructure. Although the war in Syria is far from over, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (I.R.G.C. is already seeking financial rewards for its support of Bashar al-Assad`s disputed regime over the past six years. Since the capture of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo in December, the Syrian government I.R.G.C.Enterprises has won lucrative, non-tender contracts. As in Lebanon, the I. R.G.C complements its hard power mission with economic projects and other soft power strategies to consolidate its long-term presence and influence in Syria. The official stressed the strong will of both countries to strengthen economic and industrial relations, both in the public and private sectors, and said: “We are doing everything in our power to neutralize the impact of sanctions on the economies of both countries and we will strengthen trade relations between the two sides.” Unlike other regional states, Iran has entered into numerous economic cooperation agreements and contracts with the government for the reconstruction of these sectors after the destruction of much of Syria`s infrastructure and production sectors. These include infrastructure projects, food production and health services, as well as the granting of credits that the Syrian government used at the time for Iranian imports.

In July 2013, for example, Damascus released an Iranian company specializing in the export of food from any tax on goods arriving in Syria. Unconfirmed reports also indicate that Iran is seeking guarantees from the Syrian government in the form of real estate or other public real estate, unlike loans alone. Syria`s national news agency SANA reports that countries have signed 11 agreements and memorandums of understanding to promote cooperation in Syria`s reconstruction after eight years of civil war. The agreements include agreements on infrastructure development and the fight against money laundering, as well as a “long-term strategic economic cooperation treaty.” The increase in Iran`s economic activity in Syria also has implications for the balance of power between the two countries.