President Ebrahim Raisi is slated to travel to Damascus next week in the first visit by a head of the Iranian government to Syria in over a decade.
According to a senior regional source close to the Syrian government quoted by Reuters on Friday, a détente in ties between Riyadh and Tehran, as well as a thaw in Syria’s isolation among Arab states, have paved the way for the visit.
Since war broke out in Syria in 2011, no Iranian president has visited the country despite the Islamic Republic’s continuous military involvement and economic support to President Bashar al-Assad. Thanks to Iran and Russia, Assad was able to turn the tide of the conflict and regain control of most of his country.
The Syrian daily al-Watan, a privately owned government-aligned outlet, reported that Raisi's visit would last two days and a string of agreements, particularly on economic cooperation, would be signed during his stay.
Earlier this month, regional sources revealed that the Islamic Republic had been using the opportunity of earthquake relief to smuggle weapons and military equipment into Syriafollowing the devastating February earthquakes in Syria and Turkey. The fact that humanitarian relief is not subject to sanctions, makes it all the easier for Iran to capitalize on the catastrophe.
Syria became a key battleground between Iran and its adversaries, as Iran buttresses the threat from Israel and strengthens the Assad regime. Strikes in recent weeks by Israel have seen Iranian military figures killed from the Revolutionary Guards and Quds Force in Syria, as well as targeting weapons factories and infrastructure in Iran.