Tehran, Iran – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has met with Iran’s Supreme Leader and the country’s president on a surprise visit to Tehran, a key military mainstay of the Syrian regime.
Assad met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi after an unannounced visit to the Iranian capital on Sunday morning, then left for Damascus the same day, according to Nournews, a outlet affiliated with Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC).
The Supreme Leader’s website confirmed the meeting. The reading of the rare sit-down quoted Khamenei telling Assad that his “victory in an international war” has boosted Syria’s credibility and that Iran wants to strengthen bilateral ties.
“Today’s Syria is not Syria before the war, even if there was no destruction then, but now Syria’s respect and credibility is much more and everyone sees it as a power,” Khamenei said.
Khamenei also targeted countries in the region that have normalized ties with Israel or held high-level meetings with its officials, saying this is as their own people are chanting anti-Zionist slogans. Quds Day†
This is the Syrian president’s second trip to Tehran since the start of the Syrian war in 2011. He had previously met in February 2019 with the Iranian Supreme Leader, his largest regional ally.
At the time, Qassem Soleimani, the commander-in-chief of the Quds Force, the foreign operations division of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), had accompanied Assad on his visit.
Soleimani was assassinated in January 2020 by a US drone strike in Iraq under former President Donald Trump.
Iran’s Positions on Regional Issues
At Sunday’s meeting, Iran’s supreme leader also recalled Soleimani and said his efforts in Syria were no different from those during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war that ended in 1988, which Iran considers a period of “sacred defense” .
“This connection and relationship is vital for both countries and we must not allow it to be weakened, but must strengthen it as much as possible,” Khamenei said.
Assad was quoted by the supreme leader’s website as telling Khamenei and Raisi that Iran’s positions on regional issues, especially Palestine, over the past four decades have shown that “Iran’s path is a correct and fundamental path.
“The destruction of war can be rebuilt, but if the base and foundations are destroyed, they cannot be restored,” he reportedly said.
Nearly 400,000 people have been murdered in the 11-year war in Syria, according to the UN. The conflict has left large parts of Syria in ruins and displaced more than half of the country’s population, forcing millions to seek refuge in neighboring countries.
Assad also said some believe Iran is supplying its so-called “axis of resistance” with weapons throughout the region, but his main support is to support and maintain the “spirit of resistance”. He added that “strategic” ties between Iran and Syria have become the main factor preventing Israel’s dominance over the region.
Iran, along with Russian military support, turned the war in Assad’s favor.
‘Strengthening the deterrence’
In a separate meeting with Assad, the Iranian president complained that parts of Syrian soil are still controlled by foreign forces and said that “occupying troops and their mercenaries should be expelled”.
Raisi also said that “threats from the Zionist regime in the region should also be considered through strengthening and diversifying deterrent equations.”
He pledged that strengthening ties, especially economic and business ties with Syria, is a top priority for his government, adding that he is also ready to step up cooperation on political and security issues and combat of “terrorism”.
Assad was quoted by the president’s website as saying the US’s role in the region is weakening in the face of regional resistance.
“Experience has shown that cooperation between regional countries on a range of issues, including Palestine, has been very effective, and Palestinian successes have shown that compromises by some Arab countries have led to contradictory results,” he said.
In March, the Syrian president traveled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — his first trip to an Arab state since the start of the Syrian war in 2011 — where he met the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed, met. bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The UAE and Bahrain established formal diplomatic relations with Israel in 2020. Several other Arab countries followed suit.