The dependence of the Assad regime on its two main allies Iran and Russia has increased during its attempts to regain more of the areas it lost during the last six years. But the attempts of these two countries to impose a price for the survival of the regime has not been free of conflict and competition.
The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth recently pointed to the state of competition occurring between the Russians and Iranians in Syria, both militarily and economically, noting Russia's view on Iran’s presence as a backer of President Bashar al-Assad.
The newspaper said that “the Iranians and the Russians are taking the ammunition which the sick Syrian cow is still able to produce, and a deep conflict between them has developed around distributing the spoils.” According to the newspaper, Russian President Vladimir Putin will travel to Iran in the coming weeks to “try to calm the dangers.”
One of the areas of Russian-Iranian competition for Syria has emerged in the fields of mobile phone networks, as well as gas and phosphate extraction. The Assad regime recently signed an agreement with Tehran allowing it to open a new mobile phone network in areas controlled by the regime. The two sides also signed a deal to repair airports and establish oil refineries on Syrian territory.
The Assad regime is also discussing a reconstruction phase in Syria, which has increased the competition between the two allies to obtain the largest share of the economic benefits. An article by Foreign Policy magazine predicted that most of the reconstruction contracts will go to Tehran and Moscow, noting that both China and Brazil are also trying to secure a share.
The magazine noted that the mobile network agreement signed by the regime includes companies linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
The magazine said that in 2016, the Assad regime vowed to hand Russia priority for upcoming reconstruction projects, and added that companies linked to the Kremlin had begun commercial work in the oil and gas sectors, including in areas previously held by the Islamic State (ISIS).
But the talk is not limited to economic competition only, as Yedioth Ahronoth pointed out that Russia opposes efforts by Iran to introduce another 5,000 of its fighters onto Syrian territory.
In addition, Russia is not excited about the possibility of an Iranian presence in Tartous, where a large number of Russian forces are based. The Israeli newspaper believes that “the deep conflict of interests between Iran and Russia will push the Russians closer toward Israel.”
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.