Top Military Chiefs of Iran, Iraq and Syria Meet in in Damascus

The Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, arrived in Damascus yesterday for a tripartite meeting with his Syrian and Iraqi counterparts. In a statement released prior to the talks, the three top generals said the agenda was topped by discussions on a coordinated strategy to combat regional terrorism by Tehran, Baghdad and Damascus. In contrast, one Western intelligence assessment estimated the primary motivation for bolstered cooperation is aimed at the removal of foreign forces from Iraq and Syria; as the Islamic Republic seeks to expand its influence across the region by forming a territorial corridor between the three countries.

It is important to note that the meeting came just several days after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani concluded his own visit to Baghdad, during which he signed a series of preliminary bilateral trade agreements. Iraqi President Barham Salih said the two sides addressed the necessity of improving relations, enhancing trade and setting up related economic infrastructure. The pacts also included the planned-construction of a railway linking the two neighboring countries, signed due to Iraq’s near-absolute reliance on Iranian gas imports to feed its power-grid. That is why Baghdad has urged the Washington to extend a waiver permitting it to continue importing gas from Tehran, which would otherwise be blocked by the Trump Administration’s re-imposition of sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s vital energy sector in November of last year. Thus far, Washington has not responded to Baghdad’s request.