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Iran to build new Syrian mobile telephone network

Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis (left) is greeted in Tehran by Iranian Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri (right). Photograph courtesy of HO/Iranian Presidency/AFP.

As Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad consolidates his power over the reclaimed city of Aleppo and other parts of Syria, his closest ally, Iran, seems to be reaping the rewards of what many regard as a Phyrric victory with the announcement that an Iranian company with close links to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been given the contract to reconstruct Syria’s mobile telephone network.

The deal, part of a larger set of economic agreements between Tehran and Damascus, was signed in Tehran last week during a visit to Iran by a delegation led by Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis. The deals – including the telecommunications deal – were signed by Khamis and by Iranian Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri on 17 January 2017.

The IRGC are not only the appointed guardians of the Iranian revolution started in 1979, they are also one of the most important, if not the most important, economic powers in Iran and are known to control the vast bulk of Iranian telecommuications and cyberspace sectors. Further, the Syrian deal will not only be good for IRGC revenues but will also provide them with an intelligence boon since it will allow Tehran to monitor and tap Syrian communications.

Karim Sadjapour, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Middle East programme, is quoted by Reuters as saying, “Telecoms are a very sensitive industry. It will allow Iran to closely monitor Syrian communications.”

A Syrian opposition group described the deal as IRGC “looting” of Syrian resources and its broken economy.

The deals also reflect the extent to which Damascus is in debt to the IRGC given their support for the Assad regime over the past several years. Such has been the involvement of the IRGC in the Syrian Civil War that it is claimed it has lost the lives of over 1,000 Iranian lives.

The IRGC is also seeking similar deals in Iraq, something that adds to the fears of some analysts that Tehran is pursuing a strategy to build a land, air, energy, and communications bridge from Iran to the eastern Mediterranean coast.

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