Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at Damascus airport on May 3, 2023

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at Damascus airport on May 3, 2023

Iran’s President Arrives In Syria After Regional Power Shifts

Wednesday, 05/03/2023

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi landed in Damascus on Wednesday for talks with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad, media in Tehran and Damascus reported.

This is the first visit by an Iranian head of state since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011.

With military and economic support from both Iran and Russia, Assad regained control of most of Syria from rebels, using at times indiscriminate military force. 

Raisi's visit comes as Iran and regional rival Saudi Arabia rebuild ties after years of tensions. Arab nations which had isolated Syria over its crackdown against protests in 2011 are developing a roadmap to end the 12-year war and reintegrate Syria into the Arab fold.

Speaking to pro-Iran broadcaster al-Mayadeen on the eve of his visit, Raisi said the trip would "consolidate and develop" ties with Syria and other allies, including Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, which also intervened in Syria on Assad's behalf.

Iranian and Syrian flags lined the airport road on Wednesday in preparation for the arrival of Raisi and his accompanying delegation, which includes Iran's ministers of oil, defense, foreign affairs and telecommunications.

Syrian state media said "a number of agreements" would be signed during the two-day visit.

Tehran hopes to expand its economic footprint in Syria, although itself faces a serious financial crisis partly due to US sanctions. 

In parallel, it has become even more entrenched militarily. An Israeli rocket strike on Damascus in February killed Iranian military experts and Tehran has used the flow of aid in the aftermath of the deadly February earthquake to bring in arms.

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