Iran launches cyberspace research centre to increase Syria influence
The "Union for the Production and Dissemination of Content in Cyberspace" will be responsible for the exchange of kowledge and export of technologies between the two countries, according to Iran’s Fars news agency.
Saeed Mashhadi, head of the centre, told Fars that its main goal will be to provide cybersecurity services to Syrian clients after the war destroyed much of the country’s technological infrastructure.
The move, however, can also be seen as Iran’s latest attempt to spread its religious and political influence in Syria.
Abd al-Rahman al-Hajj, director of the Syrian Memory Foundation, said Iran wants to establish itself as widely as possible in the country before any political changes occur and hamper its ability to operate.
In an interview with Arabi 21, al-Hajj said Iran is looking to establish a wide network that will enable it to remain in the country on a permanent basis.
"Tehran seeks to enhance its influence and expand its scope, through information and communication technology," he said, adding that the technology centre was one of several projects aimed at exporting the Shiite sectarian and political outlook.
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Iran has found different approaches to increase its military and security influence in Syria.
Iran has ensured its military presence by establishing armed militias and integrating them into Bashar al-Assad’s military.
However, with a decrease in military operations in Syria, Iran began searching for new ways to enhance its control and influence in different Syrian provinces.
Since the beginning of 2017, Iran has turned some of its focus on infiltrating Syrian society and strengthening its relations with Syrian businessmen, according to US think-tank Atlantic Council, which found Iran’s influence to have become more visible and pervasive.