Iran increases influence on Syria’s economy through investments

By Ihsan Muhammad

DARAA, Syria (North Press) – Since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, Iran has been influencing the Syrian economy by greatly investing financial and human resources.

Iran is considered one of the most prominent allies of the Syrian government, providing significant military, political, economic, and cultural support to ensure control over all aspects of life in Syria, especially following the agreements between the Syrian government and Iran.

The visit of the late Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Damascus in May 2023, which yielded a memorandum of understanding for strategic corporation in many fields, stressed the need to put these agreements in action.

Iran also appointed Hossein Akbari as an ambassador extraordinary to oversee the implementation of his country’s agreements with Syria.

Sanctioned by U.S.

On June 5, the Syrian Prime Ministry issued a decision to license the al-Madina Islamic Bank, 60 percent of which is owned by Iran, with 40 percent to be offered to shareholders, meaning Iran’s share could highly increase if shares from this percentage are purchased.

The bank manager is the owner of the Farab Soroush Afagh Qesham Company and its chairman, Hossein Yaghoubi Miab, who served as the Deputy Governor for International Affairs of the Central Bank of Iran and has been on the U.S. sanctions list since November 2018.

Moreover, Afsaneh Lak-Tabriz, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Farab Company, contributed one percent to the new bank, as the company installed Miab as a chairman at the Central Bank of Iran.

Iranian economic threat

Abulhakim al-Masri, Minister of Finance and Economic in the Syrian opposition’s Interim Government, northwest Syria, said while no-Syrians were previously limited to owning 49 percent of a company’s share, new systems issued decisions allow up to 60 percent.”

Al-Masri warned that Iran’s control over the new bank’s management and capital poses risks, suggesting that it will have undeclared functions and could help Iran and the Syrian government circumvent sanctions imposed on them.

He also added that the danger of the bank lies in its control over the properties of IDPs who had previously mortgaged their homes or properties to a Syrian bank, as the Iranian bank will settle their debts by seizing their properties.

The opposition minister considered that the new bank will be used for money laundering and funding the Iranian-backed militias, especially those subjected to the U.S. sanctions.

He explained that the volume of Iranian investments is on the rise, reaching more than $25 billion, and Iranian investors receive high facilities granted to them by the Syrian government.

He further said that these facilities would lead to Iran’s control over the entire Syrian economy in all sectors, especially vital sectors like banks and telecommunications.

“We expect that the Syrians will take control of Syria after the political solution, but it will be completely sold to Iran and Russia through agreements that grant them privileges enabling them to purchase real estate in vital areas,” al-Masri highlighted.