Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has met Iran’s Supreme Leader in Tehran.

Assad made his first trip to the Islamic Republic since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011. Iran has provided essential military, economic, and political assistance to prop up the Assad regime, but Damascus now faces the struggle of getting reconstruction funds while Iran is dealing with an economic crisis.

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Iranian State media said Ayatollah Khamenei proclaimed Assad and the Syrian people as the main reason for the defeat of the US and its “regional mercenaries”:

The Islamic Republic of Iran considers supporting the Syrian government and people as helping the resistance movement and current, and takes pride in it from the bottom of its heart….Iran and Syria are each other’s strategic depth and the identity and power of the resistance front depends on this continued and strategic relationship. This will prevent enemies from making their plans operational.

Assad took up Khamenei’s theme by declaring that, in “the interests of the peoples in the region”, their governments must “stop yielding to the will of some western states — on top of them, America”.

Khamenei used the occasion to denounce the US proposal for a “safe zone” in Kurdish areas along the Turkish-Syrian border, to be patrolled by American warplanes after any withdrawal of US personnel on the ground. He also demanded that the US withdraw from its Tanf base in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border.

He extended his criticism to the European Union, following the breakdown of a vital European link for the Iranian economy amid US sanctions.

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Through resistance and cooperation of its people, Syria managed to stand fast against a big coalition consisting of America, Europe and their allies in the region and emerge triumphant from this crisis.

He said of Assad, “Through your steadfastness, you turned into the hero of the Arab world and the resistance in the region has gained more power and credit through you.”

The Supreme Leader did not mention the 100,000s killed or more than 11 million displaced in Syria since March 2011.

Assad was last in Tehran in October 2010.

The Syrian leader also met President Hassan Rouhani who, according to Syrian State media, said “Tehran will continue offering what is possible to the Syrian people to complete the elimination of terrorism and start the reconstruction process”.