Russia and Iran look for energy contracts as payback for Assad support

Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime throughout his country’s bloody civil war could be  about to start paying dividends, it seems, after Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin claimed that only Russia was to be allowed to take part in the rebuilding of  Syria’s energy facilities.”The Syrian regime would like to only cooperate with Russia … in rebuilding all of the country’s energy facilities,”  he said this week. He was speaking after talks with Assad in Damascus, one week after President Vladimir Putin ordered “a significant part” of Moscow’s military contingent in Syria to  start withdrawing, declaring their work was  largely done. Syria had “no desire to work with companies from countries which had betrayed them”, Rogozin added.
His remarks may cause some surprise in Tehran and Beijing, however. As recently as September, Reuters reported that Iran – another of Assad’s  staunchest supporters – had signed deals with  to repair Syria’s power grid after a visit to Tehran by Syria’s electricity minister. Projects under discussion included the construction of a power plant on the the coastal province of  Lattakia with a capacity of 540 megawatts. Chinese firms are also have held discussions with representatives of the incumbent regime. 
What is not in doubt is the damage that seven years of civil war has wreaked on Syria’s energy supplies. Bassam Darwish, the head of its electricity ministry’s planning unit, recently estimated that direct damages to the power sector stood at between $4 and $5bn, with indirect losses stemming from the lack of electricity to various sectors, residential zones, and institutions  approaching $60bn. Before the war, power cuts were “virtually non-existent”, he said, but that electricity generation had dropped from 50bn kW-h in 2011 to 20 bn kW-h seven years later. There is, of course, a political angle to Russian and Iranian offers of help, as improving supplies of electricity  would help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad restore economic growth in the territories  under his control.
Moscow is also hoping that it is not just  its energy sector that can capitalise on President Putin’s decision to put  his country’s might behind its Middle Eastern ally. With the UN last year predicting that wheat production had  halved since the start of the war and the acreage of planted fields at an all-time low, Moscow is looking to use Syrian ports – Lattakia among them – to import grain into the ravaged country as well as to Iraq. 

Source: reuters