following the money trail: Iranian investments in Syria
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 24, 2007
In honor of the presumed trifecta of shi3a interests in the region (Iran, Lebanon, Syria), I am typing away to the melodious sounds of al-Nour’s Ashura programming.
The Islamic Republic News Agency, Iran’s official news agency, reported today that Iran’s 2006 investments in Syria totaled more than $400 million, making it far and away the largest investor in the country.
To put this in perspective, the article offers investment figures for several other countries:
India: $84 million
Germany: $24 million
Turkey: $18 million
South Korea: $3 million
Sweden: $1 million
Taken together, the European states invested $180 million – less than half Iran’s investment.
Only the combined investments of the Arab states exceeded Iran’s: $600 million.
In total, Syria received $1.4 billion in investments, of which Iran – one country – contributed nearly 29%.
Answering a question that had been intriguing me since November, the Iranian company Aberaz was just approved to build and operate a natural gas-run power plant in Hassakeh in partnership with a private Syrian firm – a double first for Syria’s previously government-run electricity sector.
Meanwhile, SANA reports today on successful talks between Syrian Prime Minister Najji Otri and Iran’s Amiran Group about the latter’s anticipated investment in a wide range of projects, from tourism to transportation.
I’m not so taken with money related conspiracy theories: that, for example, Iran’s donations to Hizbullah give it control over the latter. I am curious, though. I understand why the Iranian government might wish to push investment in Syria, but why are these private companies so interested?
Do they see opportunities in Syria that others miss – or as Iranians is their investment money less welcome in other countries? Are they receiving Syria’s equivalent of tax incentives, happy beneficiaries of the two countries current warm relations? Does each investment come with an `umra to Sitt Zeinab?
My encounters with Iranians in Syria have always been wonderful; I have particularly fond memories of a little old mullah who recited his poems for me while we each waited to renew our visas. Plus, I think the Persian accent in Arabic is utterly charming – all those dark 3ayns and ghayn/qaff elision. So for me, the more Iranians, the merrier – but I do wonder why all this interest.