Iran’s enemies focus on the Islamic Republic’s military expenditures in Syria merely to “sow discord in Iranian society,” Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami said February 19, according to Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA).
Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s top military adviser, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, said the same day that Iran will recoup what it has spent in Syria by exploiting the war-torn country’s oil, gas and phosphate resources, according to Mehr News Agency.
“The reconstruction of Syria will take several years and cost between $300 billion to $400 billion,” Safavi said and added that the Syrians agree to reimburse Iran with their natural resources.
Safavi also said that various countries competed in Syria and Iraq, but the Russian-Iranian alliance prevented the defeat of the Syrian government. Instead, it was the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan who lost, he said.
A wave of anti-establishment demonstrations that kicked off in December 2017 harshly criticized the government for, among other things, squandering the country’s financial resources on military ambitions in Syria and elsewhere in the region.
Hatami said Iran’s enemies focus on political and economic pressure points, including sanctions and military spending, to influence public opinion in Iran.
The latest annual defense budget allocated by the Rouhani administration for next year is roughly $10 billion.
The Iranian Parliament has added another $2.5 billion to the defense sector after Khamenei authorized the withdrawal of money from the country’s National Development Fund.
Iran’s five year development plan has been modified to allocate an extra five percent of the cost of every development project to defense.
Iran’s 2016 defense budget was $15.9 billion, according to the Institute for Strategic Studies journal Military Balance.
Military observers say Iran’s defense budget has been increased by 128 percent in the last year.
A Bloomberg report in 2015 said that Tehran spends at least $6 billion in Syria every year, with annual spending reaching $15 billion in some instances.
Iran has also allocated a $5.6 billion credit to Damascus, which is mainly used to import oil from Iran, Reuters and other agencies reported earlier.
Critics say this spending is unjustifiable while Iranians are experiencing serious economic hardships.