Iran and Syria sign deal for military cooperation

Iranian Defence Minister Amir Hatami (L) meeting with his Syrian counterpart Abdullah Ayoub (R) in the capital Damascus. (AFP)
Updated 27 August 2018

Iran and Syria sign deal for military cooperation

  • Iranian forces have backed Al-Assad in the country’s civil war
  • US National Security Adviser John Bolton said last week that Iran should remove its forces from Syria

BEIRUT: Iran has signed a deal to rebuild Syria’s armed forces, which have been depleted by more than seven years civil war, Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said on Monday.
Hatami, on a two-day visit to Syria, told the Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV station that the agreement also stipulates helping rebuild Syria’s military industry.
The announcement comes as the US under President Donald Trump shifts is toughening its stance on Iran’s support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s government, which has weathered a calamitous civil war.
The White House has demanded that Iran extract itself from Syria as an essential precondition to lifting sanctions that went into effect earlier this month.
Israel has also been critical of Iran’s expanding role in Syria, saying it won’t tolerate a permanent Iranian military presence near its frontiers.
Iran has been an essential backer of Syria’s government in the civil war now in its seventh year, providing advisers, military supplies, training and thousands of militiamen to fight alongside the Syrian army.
Hatami said Iran was in Syria at the invitation of the government.
The precise details of the agreement were not announced.
The Syrian government does not release casualty numbers, but monitoring groups say the government has lost tens of thousands of fighters since the civil war broke out in 2011.
Iran and Russia both intervened on behalf of the government as opposition forces gained ground in the early years of the war.
Al-Assad, who has ruled with an iron fist since inheriting the presidency from his father in 2000, now looks safe in his post but he rules over a shattered country.
At least 400,000 people have been killed in the war, according to monitoring groups, and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia estimates the economic damage to the country at over $300 bn.
The government and its international backers have described the conflict as a war against terrorism and enemies abroad, chiefly the US and other western nations.
Hatami said Syria’s government is now in a stronger position and warned against any “foreign aggression” against Syria.


US targets five Iranian officials for blocking election candidates

Updated 46 min 40 sec ago

US targets five Iranian officials for blocking election candidates

WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday slapped sanctions on five Iranian officials in charge of vetting candidates for this week's parliamentary elections, in which thousands have been barred from running.
The targeted officials include Ahmad Jannati, a powerful cleric accused of overseeing the disqualification of candidates as part of the Guardian Council. The ultra-conservative also plays a key role in a body that selects the regime's supreme leader.
"The Trump Administration will not tolerate the manipulation of elections to favor the regime's malign agenda, and this action exposes those senior regime officials responsible for preventing the Iranian people from freely choosing their leaders," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.