Aspects of Iranian Presence in Syria


Iranian presence in Syria dates back decades through various forms at all levels of Syrian life, manifested in more than eight specialized committees formed during and after Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi’s visit to Damascus in May 2023. During this visit, 15 agreements were signed between Tehran and Damascus. These committees include those focusing on banking, financial, and insurance affairs; investment affairs; oil and its investment; transportation and railway passage and trips between the two countries and aiding the Syrian fleet; trade, industry, and city building; agriculture and transferring experiences and expertise in it; tourism, including religious tourism, with a goal of welcoming 50,000 Iranian visitors to Syria at a rate of 1,000 visitors per week; and a committee dedicated to monitoring debts and dues to Iran and granting lands in lieu of debts.


The Harvest Time:

The agreements imposed by the Iranian regime on the Syrian regime serve as a cornerstone for the large ownership Tehran seeks through its companies, in an attempt to recover what it provided in support of the regime in terms of debts, after employing most of its military and material capabilities to keep Bashar al-Assad in power since the revolution in 2011.

The United Nations estimates that the average Iranian spending in Syria amounts to $6 billion annually, while the former president of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee in the Iranian parliament, Hashmatollah Falahatpisheh, confirmed after Raisi’s visit that Iran’s dues on Damascus amount to $30 billion. Meanwhile, the Iranian presidency leaked a document revealing that Tehran has spent $50 billion on the war in Syria over ten years, raising doubts about the Syrian regime’s ability to achieve economic stability.

Among the Iranian investment projects is the “Zahid” agricultural project for livestock breeding, through which it is planned to repay $7 million of Iran’s demands from Syria over a period of 25 years. It is managed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Lebanese Hezbollah. Its importance lies in its geographical location, being 25 km away from the Russian naval base in Tartus. The ranch’s area is 276 hectares, equivalent to half of the agricultural area that Iran demands to invest in Syria.(1)

There is another project to reclaim large areas of land in the plains of Deir ez-Zor, install irrigation networks, and locally invest and market its products.

In the field of oil, Iranian efforts to develop oil fields and wells under the regime’s control are ongoing. Iran currently only controls 20% of Syria’s oil wealth and does not provide it with oil aid sufficient to meet its needs.

On the financial and banking front, a bank and an insurance company were established, thereby preventing the regime from monitoring the volume of Iranian financial transfers entering or leaving Syria. On the other hand, the Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development, Mehrdad Bazrpash, announced an agreement with Syria to abolish customs tariffs between the two countries.

In the electricity sector, the Iranian Mina Group rehabilitated the fifth group of the thermal power station in Aleppo and conducted maintenance on the Maharda Power Station and its units through a phosphate exchange system. Solar-powered residential units were also constructed through the Renewable Energy Law support fund at the Syrian Ministry of Electricity. Future projects include planning to build alternative energy factories using solar or wind energy.

An agreement was reached to build a power station worth 400 million euros, equivalent to 460 million dollars, in the city of Latakia, which is a profitable deal for Tehran.

Iran had opened a credit line worth 3.5 billion dollars in 2013 and expanded it by a billion dollars in 2015, contributing to the continuation of the Syrian economy’s movement in those years.

Regarding trade between the two countries, the spokesman for the Trade Development Authority in the Iranian Ministry of Industry, Rohollah Latifi, stated that Iran’s exports to Syria reached $218.26 million in 2021, marking a 99% growth compared to the previous year. This trend continued in 2022, with a growth of 10.6% in terms of weight and 11.4% in terms of value, with exports amounting to 147,000 tons of non-oil goods valued at $243,168,533.


Academic and Cultural Presence:

The Iranian Cultural Consulate in Damascus has collaborated with academics at the University of Damascus to deliver lectures on “The Iranian Revolution and Its Leader,” as part of celebrations organized by the Faculty of Persian Language and the Iranian Cultural Consulate. They also held Iranian art exhibitions about “Khomeini,” such as “Imam Khomeini in the Mirror of Syrian Art.”

The Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Damascus organized an exhibition on June 8, 2023, featuring paintings of “Khomeini” and influential Iranian military and ideological figures.

Cultural centers in Deir ez-Zor and the plains play a role in engaging children and youth through recreational activities and free educational courses, aiming to attract them to later stages in militias affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard operating in the Euphrates region.

The Iranian Cultural Consulate in Damascus also targets children and women with weekly artistic and cultural activities. They organize “cultural” competitions focusing on Iranian presence and disseminating the writings of its leaders to Syrian and Arab minds. For instance, the consulate conducted a reading competition titled “Reading the Book (With Patience Comes Victory): Memoirs of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran” last February, granting participants a full month to read in exchange for “valuable prizes” for the winners.

Husseiniyas Strengthen Presence:

The danger of ideological mobilization is no less than economic control, so the Afghan militias of the “Fatimiyoun Brigade,” affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, have built a “Ahl al-Bayt” Husseiniya in the city of Palmyra, east of Homs. The “Al-Nujaba Movement” militias have turned a seized house in the town of Ma’dan in the Raqqa countryside into a Husseiniya, while in the village of Hatla, north of Deir ez-Zor, the “Mullahs” Husseiniya expanded, establishing Husseiniyas for “Imam Al-Baqir,” “Abu Al-Fadl Al-Abbas,” “Imam Hussein,” and “Qasem Soleimani.”

In addition to pilgrims visiting the shrines of “Sayyida Zainab” and “Sayyida Ruqayya,” the “Fatima” Complex in the Shaghour area of Damascus has not been put into service.

Finally, Iran strongly supports the Syrian regime against the Syrian people, considering Syria as part of its sphere of influence. Iran provides massive financial and military support to the regime, believing that Assad’s survival guarantees Syria’s status as its sphere of influence.

Iran competes with Russia for control over the Assad regime, with Russia possessing stronger advantages such as permanent membership in the Security Council and decisive air power. Turkey is considered Iran’s strong competitor in Syria, possessing economic, military, historical, and cultural advantages surpassing Iran.

Iran views normalization with Saudi Arabia and Arab countries with a dual perspective. It aims to rehabilitate the Arab system, but fears increasing Arab influence at its expense. Iran prefers to maintain the threat rather than allow Arab expansion in Syria.

Regarding the Syrian opposition, Iran is keen on not weakening the Syrian regime and refuses to involve the opposition in power, believing that Assad’s personal survival is the only guarantee. Thus, Iran’s role will only change under international pressure and within specific exchanges, which do not seem likely now.


We, in the Syrian Women’s Political Movement, strongly reject any foreign intervention in Syria, including Iranian intervention. The movement considers Iranian intervention a threat to Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, prolonging the conflict.

The Syrian Women’s Political Movement calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria, including Iranian forces and their militias, which threaten women’s rights and restrict their freedoms, posing a threat to women’s rights in Syria.

The Syrian Women’s Political Movement believes that the Iranian presence and its militias in Syria have a negative impact on Syrian society, leading to sectarianism and extremism, and calls for the cessation of all practices that negatively affect Syrian society.

The Syrian Women’s Political Movement calls for cooperation and pressure from all international parties to resolve the Syrian crisis in accordance with UN resolutions because a political solution is the only way to end the Syrian crisis.


Political Committee of the Syrian Women’s Political Movement 


(1) The “Zahid” Dairy Farm, the largest in Syria, was not economically disadvantaged, but it was granted to Iran for investment under an economic cooperation agreement, in exchange for Iran paying $200,000 annually. Its production reached 5 tons of milk per day, supplying the Homs Cheese and Dairy Factory, with over 50 staff including veterinarians, agricultural engineers, and workers.