Iran Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian with Bashar al-Assad (File/AP)
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian sat down with Bashar al-Assad for talks in Syria’s capital Damascus on Saturday.
As usual, the two sides offered no substantive details on the discussions. Iranian and Syria State media issued standard lines about bilateral ties and regional developments, including in Iraq, Yeman, and Afghanistan as well as Syria.
The Assad regime is in a long-term economic crisis, with shortages of food, electricity, fuel, and other basic goods. It has been dependent on Iran for assistance, including oil and gas, since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011. However, Tehran is facing its own economic difficulties amid US sanctions and long-term structural issues.
Assad has also been frustrated in his pledge to retake “every inch” of Syria, notably the opposition-held northwest and Kurdish-controlled northeass, although — enabled by Russia — pro-Assad forces have tightened their hold in the south in recent months.
However, Iran is hopeful that Assad’s diplomatic isolation will ease, amid steps by countries such as the UAE, Jordan, and Egypt this year. Amir-Abdollahian declared that the atmosphere at the UN General Assembly in late September established that “conditions have changed in favour of Syria”.
Assad avoided any public reference to the situation. Instead, he issued his template declaration about “the liberation of all territory from terrorism and end any illegitimate presence in the country”. He also proclaimed that his “re-election” this spring and the US withdrawal from Afghanistan were portents of the “rise of a new axis and the fall of the Western axis”.
Amir Abdollahian also met Assad in late August, soon after becoming Foreign Minister. This visit followed his meetings in Russia and Lebanon, including with Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, another essential supporter of the Assad regime.