The Assad regime has vowed to offer the best possible benefits to Russian companies involved in Syrian “reconstruction” projects, largely ignoring the possible Iranian role in this sector.
Syria’s ambassador to Russia, Riad Haddad, said that “the Syrian government and all related organizations have received instructions from Bashar al-Assad to provide the maximum benefits to our Russian colleagues who will participate in Syrian economic restoration so that our country can regain the position it occupied before the war,” according to the Russian Sputnik agency on Monday.
Haddad’s statements came during his participation in the Russian-Syrian Business Forum in the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The ambassador added: “The Syrian Embassy is always ready to offer all types of services in order to give maximum benefits to you [Russia] in the framework of your cooperation with your Syrian counterparts.”
Haddad described the volume of destruction resulting from the ongoing fighting in Syria as “horrifying” and said that the Assad regime hoped that Russian companies would be able to help in the country’s reconstruction.
According to the International Monetary Fund, Syria needs about $200 billion to rebuild the infrastructure which has been damaged as a result of the Assad regime's military operations and bombardment on Syrian cities over the last seven years.
The regime’s empowerment of Russia in the reconstruction phase comes amid clear moves to distance Iran from this sector, with even Iranian media close to the government expressing annoyance at removing Tehran from major economic projects in Syria.
Iran believes that it is “its right to obtain a major share” of reconstruction projects in Syria, as a token of gratitude from the Assad regime. Tehran sees itself as a main reason why control of Syria has avoided falling to the opposition.
The reconstruction file is one of the forms of competition between Russia and Iran, Assad’s two main allies. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javid Zarif hinted at this in a television interview at the start of February when he said that Tehran was not happy about Russia’s obtaining major reconstruction projects in Syria at Iran’s expense, saying that there was no need for the two countries to compete.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.