Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) welcomes Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (C), before a meeting in Damascus January 15, 2014. REUTERS/SANA
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Iran is spending billions of dollars a year to prop up the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, according to the U.N.'s envoy to Syria and other outside experts. These estimates are far higher than what the Barack Obama administration, busy negotiating a nuclear deal with the Tehran government, has implied Iran spends on its policy to destabilize the Middle East.On Monday, a spokeswoman for the U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told me that the envoy estimates Iran spends $6 billion annually on Assad's government. Nadim Shehadi, the director of the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies at Tufts University, said his research shows that Iran spent between $14 billion and $15 billion in military and economic aid to the Damascus regime in 2012 and 2013, even though Iran's banks and businesses were cut off from the international financial system.While the administration has never disclosed its own estimates on how much Iran spends to back Syria and other allies in the Middle East, Obama himself has played down the financial dimension of the regime's support.Nonetheless, Shehadi says, Iranian support to Syria today is substantial, especially when factoring in the line of credit, oil subsidies and other kinds of economic assistance Iran provides the Syrian regime.
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