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Iran, Syria announce new military partnership – here’s what they’re doing

President of Iran Hassan Rouhani (right) during the trilateral meeting of the heads of states, guarantors of the Astana process for facilitating the Syrian peace settlement on Feb. 14, 2019. (Kremlin/Released)
July 08, 2020

Iran and Syria signed a defense agreement Wednesday, signalling Iran will provide new support for Syria’s military and particularly its air defenses.

Iranian Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, the Chief of Staff for Iran’s armed forces, signed an agreement with the Syrian Minister of Defense Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, Iran’s Mehr News Agency reported Wednesday. The agreement aims to increase Iran’s military support for Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad’s regime.

“The agreement expands our mutual cooperation to counter US pressure,” Bangheri said.

According to a translated report by Radio Free Europe’s Radio Farda service, Bangheri further indicated the agreement is aimed at increasing the military cooperation between Iran and Syria.

“We will strengthen Syria’s air defense systems in order to improve military cooperation between the two countries,” Bangheri said.

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The Iranian general noted concerns by Syria and people in other countries, regarding the Israeli and U.S. forces in the region surrounding Syria and said the deal will “further enhance our will… to confront pressures by America.”

The defense agreement between Iran and Syria also comes after an Israeli air strike in Syria in May against military depots in the Assad-controlled city of Aleppo. 14 Iranian and Iraqi fighters were reportedly killed in the Israeli strike.

During a press conference announcing the agreement, Ali Ayyoub assessed that a series of U.S. sanctions against Syria, known as the Caesar Act, has also harmed Syrian civilians by limiting their access to food and medicine.

“If the American administrations were able to subjugate Syria, Iran and the axis of resistance, they would not be delayed for a moment,” Ali Ayyoub said in remarks reported by The Jerusalem Post.

The term “axis of resistance” has been used to refer to a political alliance including Iran, Syria, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and other groups backed by Iran that have opposed Israel and the U.S. presence in the Middle East. Reuters reported the use of the term “axis of resistance” by Iranian officials voicing support for Assad in 2012 during the Battle of Aleppo.

Iran’s alliance with Syria has continued throughout the Syrian Civil War and Iranian forces have also supported the Assad government’s fight with the Islamic State terror group in Syria. Iran has affirmed its support for the Assad regime throughout recent years and has insisted on support for the Syrian government despite past Israeli pressure and U.S. sanctions.