Photo: Reuters

Assad, Khamenei hold talks in Iran

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with his closest regional ally Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran yesterday, during which both leaders called for even stronger bilateral ties.

By Erin Viner

The talks mark Assad’s second trip to the Islamic Republic since eruption of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 which erupted from pro-democracy protests. The Syrian leader was able to turn the tide of the conflict with critical help from Iran’s proxy militias such as the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group, as well as major military intervention by his other close partner Russia in 2015.

Iran’s economic influence in Syria has also grown in recent years, providing the regime with credit lines to win lucrative business contracts.

“Today’s Syria is not what it was before the war, although there were no destructions then, but the respect and prestige of Syria is greater than before, and everyone sees this country as a power,” Iranian state television reported Khamenei as telling Assad.

Assad also met with his Iranian counterpart Ebrahim Raisi during his visit, according to Iran’s IRNA state news agency. The Iranian leader also underscored to Assad that his government’s priority is to bolster strategic ties with Damascus, said Tehran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency.

Iranian State TV quoted Assad as saying that “the strategic ties between Iran and Syria has prevented the Zionist regime’s (Israel) dominance in the region.”

Israel, which arch-foe Iran refuses to recognize, has allegedly mounted frequent attacks against what it has describes as Iranian targets in Syria to prevent the Islamic Republic from establishing a permanent presence. Iranian leaders have frequently threatened to annihilate the Jewish State.