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Iran has spent $30 billion propping up Assad regime: report

Bashar al-Assad has relied heavily on foreign support through Syria's war [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 May, 2020

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Iran has spent $20-30 billion in aiding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the money must be paid back, an Iranian lawmaker has claimed.

Iran has spent as much as $30 billion towards propping up the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime since 2011, an Iranian lawmaker has claimed.

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh revealed the figures to Iranian news website Etemad last week, demanding that Syria pay back the money "owed" to Tehran.

A former member of the government's security and foreign policy committee did not specify how or when the cash-stapped Syrian regime should repay the alleged debt to Iran.

Falahatpisheh's remarks sparked anger in Iran, with one journalist describing his words as "unprofessional and vulgar".

According to figures cited by Bloomberg, the $20-30 billion debt is two times as high as Iran's defence budget for last year.

After Syria's anti-government demonstrations were met with brutal force in 2011 and sparked an armed uprising, Iran bolstered the Assad regime through military aid and by sending foreign militias.

Alongside Russia and Tehran-backed Hezbollah militants, Iran helped Syria reverse a series significant military defeats at the hands of rebel forces.

Syria's nine-year war has claimed an estimated 500,000 lives.

Read more: Don't be fooled, Syria's Assad is more beholden to Russia than ever

Despite having successfully forced opposition groups into small pockets of Syria, the financial cost of the Assad regime's war is beginning to weigh heavily on Damascus.

In recent weeks, a public rift between billionaire businessman Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Assad further exposed how Syria's ruling family funded its way through its brutal war.

Speaking on video, Makhlouf accused the Assad regime of squeezing taxes out of his businesses and attempting to seize his assets in order to pay for a hefty bill issued by Moscow for its part in the war.

Signs of a spat first emerged last summer, when Syrian authorities seized Makhlouf's Al-Bustan charity and dissolved militias affiliated to him. 

The emergence of Russian media reports critical of Assad also suggest dissatisfaction in Moscow with their investment. 

Assad's alleged laxity on corruption and poor handling of Syria's economy is reportedly causing unease in Russia, which is anxious to avoid further unrest in the war-torn country.


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