In an important and symbolic visit Syria’s Bashar al-Assad visited Tehran on Monday and met with Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei as well as other key officials. Iran praised Syria’s “victory” as an example of Iran’s victory and condemned US “plots” against the region.
In a rare trip abroad for Assad, the Syrian regime leader traveled to Iran where he held numerous meetings with Iranian officials. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani attended the meetings, a clear indication of the important regional discussions taking place.
Assad appeared to travel to Iran without a delegation and the Syrian regime flag didn’t appear present at most meetings. The visit comes amid tensions between Israel and Iran in Syria. Assad rarely travels abroad. He went to Russia in 2015 and 2017 and hosted. Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir in 2018, but generally the Assad regime is isolated due to the long civil war that has displaced millions and killed hundreds of thousands. The trip is a symbol of Assad’s perception that he is secure in power and his desire to cement and deepen the Iranian alliance.
In a meeting with Rouhani the Iranians stressed the importance of the Russian-backed Astana process in ending the Syrian conflict. They said they stood by Syria’s sovereignty and the “elimination of terrorism,” according to Syria’s SANA state broadcaster. They discussed “strategic” cooperation in light of recent deals between Tehran and Damascus. Tehran wants to increase economic cooperation and help rebuild Syria. Iran already has numerous bases in Syria, many connected to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iranian officials regularly visit Damascus. Iran says it has accomplished ninety percent of its goals in Syria.
The meeting comes in the wake of the US-backed Warsaw Summit and condemnations of Iran by US Vice President Mike Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. US President Donald Trump has also said that Washington is keeping an eye on Iran from Iraq. The US has slammed Iranian support for Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis and accuses Tehran of spreading instability. Iran says that in fact it’s role in the region brings stability and that the US is a threat.
Syrian President Bashar Assad has made his first public visit to Iran — his country’s closest regional ally — since the beginning of the Syrian conflict eight years ago.
Syrian state television reported the visit on Monday, showing footage of Assad meeting with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported that the two had agreed to “continue cooperation at all levels for the interests of the two friendly nations.”
A statement published on Khamenei's website said that Iran was “proud” of its assistance to Syria “from the bottom of its heart.”
It was a rare trip abroad for Assad who has not travelled anywhere apart from Russia since the conflict began. Assad thanked Iran’s leaders and people “for what they have given to Syria during the war.” Tehran has supported Damascus with billions of dollars of aid as the war raged on.
Earlier this month, Assad warned rebel militias relying on US support that they would be sold out by Washington which sees them as no more than a bargaining chip in a political game.
“We say to those groups who are betting on the Americans, the Americans will not protect you,” he said in a televised speech.