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Syria regime repays war debt by awarding Iran huge construction contract

Tehran has supported Damascus militarily and economically during the conflict [AFP]

Date of publication: 25 February, 2019

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Iran signed an agreement with the Syrian regime to build 200,000 housing units in Damascus, an Iranian official announced on Sunday.
Iran signed an agreement with the Syrian regime to build 200,000 housing units in Damascus, an Iranian official announced on Sunday.

The planned reconstruction works will be concentrated around the suburbs of Damascus and are likely to commence within the next three months. It is not clear if the areas for reconstruction are former opposition territories, destroyed by regime forces following repeated shelling and bombing.

The Syrian regime preferred Iranian companies and contractors to rebuild the war-torn country, said Tehran province Vice Chairman of Mass-Housing Constructors Association Iraj Rahb, according to Iranian Mehr news agency.

"In our recent trip to Syria along with First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri and Mohammed Eslami, minister of roads and urban development, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was inked between Iran and Syria for constructing 200,000 residential units in this Arab country," Rahb said.

In January, the Syrian regime and Iran signed 11 agreements and memoranda of understanding, including a "long-term strategic economic cooperation" deal aimed at strengthening cooperation between Damascus and one of its key allies in the civil war that has torn the country apart.

The agreements covered a range of fields including economy, culture, education, infrastructure, investment and housing.

The new agreements come against the backdrop of fresh US sanctions against Iran, while Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime. Several of the Syrian business leaders and companies are already on US and European blacklists.

They also come as Israel has repeatedly pledged to keep arch-foe Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, where the war has already claimed more than 360,000 lives and displaced several million people.

"These deals are aimed at quietening the streets of Iran by suggesting that the Iranian losses endured by supporting the Syrian regime's brutal war are paying off," researcher and Syrian economist Younis al-Karim told The New Arab.

"The Iranians will not be given strategically important contracts in Syria, as those are dominated by Russia, which controls most of the vital reconstruction plans. That is why the Iranians choose the housing sector," Karim said.

"These housing units are a loss, because they will be cheap and therefore low quality. Iran knows these are losing projects, especially against the backdrop of falling Syrian pound."

Tehran has supported Damascus economically during the conflict through oil deliveries and several lines of credit, as well as sending thousands of militia fighters and Iranian commanders to save regime forces from collapse.


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