Iranian lawmaker Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh says Syria should pay Iran for what it has spent on the country’s war.
Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, an Iranian member of parliament and former chairman of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said his country has spent about $20-30 billion on Syria, and Iran must be reimbursed in the future.
In his video interview to the country's reformist local media Etemad Online, Falahatpisheh said the money spent in Syria belongs to the Iranians.
In March 2018, Falahatpisheh paid a visit to Syria and said Iran should support Assad’s regime against “terrorists” and claimed his country played a major role in “all successful operations” in the war-torn country.
Despite not mentioning how the money was spent in Syria, whether on Iranian and Hezbollah militias or investments made directly to Assad regime’s military, he added that Syria (read: Bashar al Assad) has accrued a big debt to Iran.
He didn’t specify how or when Syria should repay the money and he didn’t explicitly explain how much of it should be reimbursed. The Iranian public was quick to react to Falahatpisheh's statements; a journalist branded his comments “unprofessional and vulgar.”
Syria’s reconstruction process has long been a controversial issue in both the media and among the states involved in the conflict. Russia and Iran are known to be at odds with each other over how the reconstruction will commence.
Recently, controversy erupted when Rami Makhlouf, Bashar al Assad’s cousin, an ally of Iran, released a number of videos that, in essence, aired out the Assad family’s dirty laundry. He spoke of the standoff between the Assad regime, his companies and of taxes being squeezed out of him, along with attempts to seize his wealth.
There are allegations that Assad squeezed his billionaire cousin to pay for Moscow’s expenses in Syria.
Iranians suffer from the economic crisis
Iran has been suffering from an economic crisis largely resulting from the effects of US sanctions, corruption and a recent collapse in oil prices.
Apart from ongoing difficulties, the coronavirus pandemic has hit the country hard causing a severe strain on the Iranian economy.
Before the crisis, amid rising inflation and unemployment, Iranians spilled out onto the streets in large numbers to protest the regime and its policies.
Iran is involved in a number of proxy wars in the region, including supporting the Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen and it facilitates a wide array of militias in Iraq. If the Iranian lawmaker alleges that tens of billions have come from Iranian taxpayers just in Syria, the number from all of its proxy adventures will undoubtedly be a lot higher.
Iran’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $436 billion in 2019-2020. Its economy contracted by 4.7 per cent in 2018 and declined a further 7.6 per cent in the first nine months of 2019, according to the World Bank.
Despite the deterioration of the economy, Iran has continued its involvement in a host of conflicts in the region and is constantly doing battle with the far wealthier US-Saudi alliance.
However, according to American envoy James Jeffrey, Iran was forced to decrease the number of its forces and militias in Syria due to its worsening economic conditions.