Iran signed a preliminary agreement with Syria on Saturday to help rebuild the Arab ally's electricity grid, Iranian state media reported, as Tehran seeks to strengthen its role in Syria and the region.
A memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries' electricity ministers in Tehran covered the construction of power plants, transmission lines, cutting losses in Syria's electricity network, and the possibility of connecting the two countries' grids through Iraq, the state news agency IRNA said.
The report did not give the value of the deal. IRNA quoted Syrian Electricity Minister Mohammad Zuhair Kharboutli as saying the country's grid had suffered damages of 50 percent and that "Iran's role is important" in the reconstruction.
This would be a complicated and costly project given hundreds of miles of distance between the two countries and the destruction inflicted on Syria’s infrastructure in nine years of civil war. In November 2017, Syria’s minister of electricity said 50 percent of his country’s power grid was destroyed.
Iran’s own electricity generation suffers from lack of sufficient investments leading to aging and exhaustion.
It is also not clear who will pay for the vast project, as both Syria's and Iran's economies face major problems. U.S. sanctions have dramatically reduced Iran's oil income and the country is strapped for cash.
Shunned by Western powers, the Syrian government has looked to friendly states such as Iran, Russia and China to play a major role in rebuilding the country, as the war heads toward its ninth year.
Since at least 2012, Iran has provided critical military support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, helping it regain control of swathes of the country. Iran experts have said Tehran is now hoping to reap a financial dividend.