After Nuclear Deal, Iran Looks to Profit in Syria

By Tony Badran

Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where he focuses on Lebanon, Hezbollah, Syria, and the geopolitics of the Levant. Born and raised in Lebanon, Tony has testified to the House of Representatives on several occasions regarding U.S. policy toward Iran and Syria. His writings have appeared in publications including The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, and The Weekly Standard, and he is a regular contributor to Tablet and a columnist for NOW.

By Saeed Ghasseminejad

Saeed Ghasseminejad is an associate fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies specializing in Iran's economy, politics, and the effects of terrorism and political unrest on financial markets. Born and raised in Iran, Saeed is a co-founder of the Iranian Liberal Students and Graduates organization in Iran. He is currently a PhD candidate in finance at Baruch College in New York, where he teaches undergraduate finance. Saeed has a Bachelor's in engineering from the University of Tehran and a Master's in engineering from Ecole Speciale des Travaux Publics in Paris. Saeed's work has been published in The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Business Insider, The Weekly Standard, The National Interest, National Post (Canada), Hurriyet (Turkey), The Jerusalem Post, and The Times of Israel. He has also been quoted and interviewed by The New York Times, France24, Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, BBC Persian, Radio France Internationale, and Israel Radio.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s powerful, ideological military force, is one of the country’s most influential institutions, with major stakes in key sectors of the economy and supervision of Tehran’s vast network of militias and terrorist proxies in conflicts throughout the Middle East. In its eagerness to secure the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, however, the Obama Administration turned a blind eye to IRGC involvement in the Syrian civil war, and as the Trump Administration now ponders its options, the IRGC is looking to turn its investment in Syria into profits.

In January, Iran signed five economic memorandums of understanding with Syria, which gave Iran important assets in Syria and expanded the IRGC’s clout in the war-torn country. One of the agreements grants the Mobile Telecommunication Company of Iran (MCI), a company controlled by the IRGC and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a license to operate a mobile network in Syria. 

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