Iran’s defense minister arrives in Damascus to discuss reconstruction of Syria

Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami has arrived in Damascus to meet senior Syrian officials, the ministry said.

Hatami is expected to hold meetings with his Syrian counterpart and heads of the Syrian Armed Forces, the defense ministry said in a statement on its website.

Speaking to the media upon his arrival in the Syrian capital, the top military official announced that Tehran hopes to have “active participation in the reconstruction of Syria.”

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FILE PHOTO: NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) exercise © Anna Krasko/Agencja Gazeta

The aim of the trip is also to develop “bilateral cooperation” with the Arab Republic, according to the statement.

Along with Turkey and Russia, Iran is tasked with enforcing the ceasefire in de-escalation zones in Syria established as a result of the Astana talks in May 2017. Under the memorandum that was agreed upon, government forces and armed opposition groups were required to cease all fighting within the safe zones.

Tehran has repeatedly criticized the US military presence in Syria. In June, a senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader even warned that the conflict in the country could become a second Vietnam War for Washington. “The Americans themselves have created [Islamic State] and Al-Nusra in Syria and now they have come onto the scene and occupied Eastern Euphrates,” Ali Akbar Velayati, a top aide on international affairs for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said.

READ MORE: Netanyahu vows to keep fighting Iran ‘anywhere in Syria’

The visit of the Iranian defense minister may anger its arch-nemesis, Israel, which has repeatedly called for Iran’s withdrawal from Syria. Israel has recently intensified its bombing of military infrastructure in Syria, arguing that the Iranian presence in the Arab Republic and its strong foothold on its borders jeopardizes national security. In May, Israeli jets reportedly targeted Iranian military assets stationed in Syria, killing Iranian military personnel south of Damascus and triggering outrage from Tehran.

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