As the Syrian economy deteriorates, the Assad regime’s loyalists are raising their voices and questioning the credibility of Iran’s friendship, given its decline in energy and financial support.
One of the most important causes of the economic crisis in Syria is a lack of sufficient energy supplies. This has fueled Syrian resentment toward Iran, which has plenty of oil and gas but does not export them to Syria at reasonable prices.
Oil supplies from Iran to Syria are insufficient and irregular. An Iranian oil tanker carrying an estimated 700,000 barrels of oil arrived at Baniyas port last week, but Syria would need 250,000 barrels a day to function as it did before the war.
This lack of sufficient supplies of oil and gas has contributed to the lack of energy availability in Syria’s cities and countryside. Electricity does not reach many areas in Damascus for more than 30 minutes per day, while there are cities and towns in the country that have not received electricity for five days.
The Syrian economy has been stagnant since the war. Limited energy supplies are a major contributing factor to this crisis.
Due to a lack of the fuel needed to power generators, the efficiency of telephone, mobile and internet networks has also dropped drastically, making it impossible to do business in Syria. In addition, families have lost contact with relatives at home and abroad.
Leading government institutions did not conduct any electronic transactions last week due to the lack of internet or a power outage, which foreshadows the transformation of Syria into a failed state.
Most large factories have reduced the number of distribution vehicles they run due to fuel shortages and some have closed their doors, exacerbating the unemployment problem. Shops and markets in most districts of Damascus close their doors at sunset as they do not have enough fuel to run generators or recharge batteries.
There seems to be no life for Syrians after sunset, when the country plunges into almost total darkness due to the lack of lighting in houses and on the streets.
There is no doubt that Iran has the economic potential to positively influence and participate in the prosperity and stability of Syria and the rest of the Middle East. Unfortunately, this potential has instead been used to support wars and spread chaos, deepening the crises in the region and drastically worsening the lives of people in the affected areas.
Today, Syria, especially in regime-controlled areas, offers minimal public services, prompting many residents to emigrate in search of a better life. As Syria’s economic crisis continues, the world may witness a new state of Syrian immigration, not due to war but the lack of livelihoods. As the Syrian people struggle to survive, we hear Iranian-linked media outlets urging Syrians abroad to return home. These comments show how detached from reality Iran’s position is.
Iran claimed to be friends with Syria but has not accepted a single Syrian refugee, despite contributing to their displacement during the war. Moreover, Iran is now exacerbating a new wave of emigration by not providing enough support to the Assad government in the energy sector, even though it possesses oil and gas in quantities exceeding its needs.
Iran believes it has achieved its goal in Syria by keeping the Assad regime in power. However, this war has been very costly for Syria and its people, as livelihoods and infrastructure have been destroyed. Syria is now in the worst economic situation in its modern history. The country has gone back several decades due to the enormity of the destruction.
Beyond investing in keeping the Assad regime in power, Iran is not interested in helping Syria’s economic situation or the living conditions of the Syrian people. Instead, it focuses on expanding its influence by spreading chaos, conflict and destruction.
Unless Iran changes its destructive policy of exporting the Khomeinist revolution by force, it will find itself all alone.
Iran’s economy is also struggling due to the regime’s involvement in external crises. The Iranian regime has placed the financial burden of spreading its ideology abroad on its own citizens. This, in turn, has caused internal dissent and a popular uprising triggered by the growing anger of the Iranian people against the regime.
The political agenda of exporting the Iranian revolution has failed as it met an increasingly widespread rejection due to the suffering of the Syrian and Iranian people. Countries dominated by Iran are in a worse economic situation than ever.
The catastrophic situation of the Syrian economy is a prime example of the destructive effect of exporting the Iranian revolution. Due to the destroyed economy, soaring inflation and massive famine, dozens of angry protesters stormed the As-Suwayda Governorate’s headquarters in the south of the country last week and set fire to parts of the building.
Amid deteriorating living conditions, Bashar Assad may again face a popular uprising, even in cities loyal to the regime. This, in turn, would take Iran back to square one in Syria and require further investment to keep Assad in power.
Iran’s meddling in the Syrian crisis has escalated the conflict and plunged the country into darkness due to a lack of fuel and hope for a political solution.
- Ghassan Ibrahim is a British-Syrian journalist and researcher on issues regarding the Middle East, most notably Turkiye, Syria and Iran. He can be reached at www.ghassanibrahim.com.