Iran's ongoing oil support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria is a way of taking control of Syria's strategic assets and elevating its negotiation power if the US returns to Iran’s nuclear deal, experts told Anadolu Agency in a recent interview.
Iran sent over 3 million barrels of crude oil to help solve the fuel crisis in al-Assad's regions last month, which brought social life and transportation to a halt.
According to naval tracking firm Tanker Trackers, the tankers; Arman 114, Sam 121, Daran and Romina carried over 3 million barrels of crude oil in mid-April.
Among the tankers, the Arman 114 tanker had formerly been known as Adrian Darya-1, and was also previously named Grace 1.
British Royal Marines near Gibraltar seized the tanker on July 4, 2019, on suspicion that it violated European Union sanctions while heightening international tension by carrying oil to Syria.
This week, another 1.5 million barrels of oil are expected to arrive at Syria's port city of Baniyas.
Ali Bakeer, a senior researcher at the Ibn Khaldon Center for Humanities and Social Sciences at Qatar University said the US administration’s avoidance of applying sanctions to the recent oil shipments to Syria indicates its willingness to return to the nuclear deal.
'It [the continuation of oil shipments] means that Biden's administration is turning a blind eye to Iran's violations of sanctions imposed against it and the Assad regime. This confirms the previous perception that the Biden administration will concede to Tehran after all to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),' Bakeer said.
However, he cautioned that the “direct outcome of such a policy will embolden Iran and strengthen the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) regional activities, especially in Syria and Iraq.'
Last month, the US and Iran agreed via intermediaries to create two working groups to try to get both sides back into compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in a meeting in Vienna.
-Iran wants to protect its area of influence
One of the working groups will focus on how the US can return to the deal by lifting economic sanctions imposed after former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, while the second working group will concentrate on getting Iran to comply with the deal's limitations on nuclear enrichment and enriched uranium stockpiles.
Bakeer, who regards Iran's continuing oil shipments to Syria as a part of Iran's commitment to keeping al-Assad in power, said that such support comes at a great cost for the Syrian people and the future of Syria.
'In return for oil shipments, Iran will put its hands on Syria’s strategic assets and resources, gain leverage against the Assad regime, and improve its position in Syria vis-a-vis allies and rivals, such as Russia and Turkey,' he said.
He warned that if the US continues to overlook Iran's violations in Syria, there is a likelihood that the 'Syrian theatre' will heat up, encouraging the Assad regime and its allies to destabilize the situation and trigger a confrontation between several regional players.
Nursin Atesoglu Guney, an academic at the International Relations department of Istanbul-based Nisantasi University, said Iran will not want to make any compromise from its gains during the intervention in Iraq in 2003 in the area known as 'Shia Crescent', covering Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
'Iran tries to protect its influence in the region but slogs on due to the sanctions and political pressure. Iran is trying to increase its negotiation power by fortifying its position of influence in these areas should the US return to the nuclear deal,' she said.
Guney concluded that the US administration wants to redraw Iran's influence in these areas while many western countries are unhappy with Iran's expansionist approach.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya