On October 1, by means of a recent agreement, Tehran will officially take over the management of the port at the Syrian city of Latakia, fulfilling the Islamic Republic’s long-held goal of securing access to the Mediterranean. Élie Saïkali writes:
The agreement is a major accomplishment for Tehran, which sees control of the port as an opportunity to strengthen its influence in Syria and the rest of the Middle East. It is also a step forward in the consolidation of the “Shiite axis” linking Iran to the Mediterranean by land. . . . After October 1, the Islamic Republic will be able to use the 23-warehouse harbor for its own purposes. . . .
The port agreement is a sign that Iran’s presence in Syria is still increasing; it followed on the heels of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s visit to Tehran on February 25, where he met with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The trip was Assad’s first to his closest regional ally since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, which is now in its ninth year.
In recent months, a number of industrial, military, and energy deals between Tehran and Damascus have been made public, including one that provides for the establishment of power stations in Latakia. The port-management agreement is another building block in Iran’s project to maintain its presence in Syria. The move is bad news for Israel, which may be tempted to carry out airstrikes on the facility if it suspects that it is being used to move suspicious goods.