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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is in Tehran on Thursday for a rare state as part of a condolence message in the wake of the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash earlier this month.

Assad met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as the Islamic Republic’s acting President Mohammad Mokhber. Assad expressed condolences also for the death of Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and other officials who went down in the May 19th crash in a mountainous region near Azerbaijan.

The trip also comes amid the backdrop of the Gaza war, as well as daily exchanges of fire between Israel and Hezbolllah, also amid recent Israeli attacks on Syria. Ayatollah Khamenei hailed Syria as central to the ‘resistance’. He told the Syrian president “Syria’s special position in the region is distinguished because of this identity, and this important feature must be preserved.”

Image source: Khamenei.ir

“This identity has always contributed to the national unity of Syria,” he added, describing that Damascus’ resistance to Western hegemony was initially forged by Assad’s father, the late Hafez. Khamenei said, “everyone should see the special privilege of the Syrian government, that is, resistance, in front of their eyes.”

According to more from state media, Iran’s Supreme Leader spoke on the last decade of Western-Gulf-Israeli efforts to overthrow the Syrian government

Ayatollah Khamenei said the Westerners and their acolytes in the region tried to overthrow Syria’s political system and remove it from the regional equations through the war they waged against the country, but they did not succeed

Now they want to use other methods, including promises that they never fulfill, in order to take Syria out of the regional equations,” he added.

Among these current methods includes sanctions that aim to starve and choke Syria and its population, as well as the ongoing US occupation of northeast Syria, where the country’s vital supplies of oil and gas are located. Officials in Baghdad, Tehran, Damascus, and Moscow have long charged Washington with plundering Syria’s natural resources.

Though not religiously aligned (Iran is a Shia religious state while Syria has a largely Baathist secular identity), Damascus and Tehran have since 2011 forged deeper ties. That’s when Western and Gulf states began pouring massive supplies of weaponry and money into jihadist rebel forces in a large-scale covert campaign to topple Assad.

Out of the West-backed insurgency came ISIS, Syrian al-Qaeda, and an array of Sunni terrorist groups. Israel also covertly supported this Sunni terror insurgency aimed at rolling back ‘Iranian influence’ and the so-called ‘Shia axis’.

In response, Iran deepened its military presence throughout Syria at the invitation of the Assad government. In 2015, Russia also intervened as an ally of the Syrian government, and at its request. This is part of the ‘resistance’ that Iran’s leaders speak of, which also includes Lebanese Hezbollah.

Without Syria, Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah pushing back against Western/Gulf regime change efforts, there’s a big likelihood that an al-Qaeda aligned entity would be in control of Damascus today. It might be an uncomfortable truth for many, but it is a historical fact nonetheless. 

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