On May 9, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad made a surprise trip to Iran where he met with the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi.

This was Assad’s second official visit to Iran since the Syrian war erupted in 2011. The Syrian President first visit was in February 2019.

During the meeting with Assad, Khamenei called for further improvement in the already strong relations between Iran and Syria.

“Efforts should be made to improve relations between the two countries more than before,” Khamenei told Assad during the meeting according to his official website,

Khamenei went on to say that Syria’s “credibility” was “much greater now than in the past” and it was being looked at “as a power” today.

“Syria today is not the same as pre-war Syria; although there was no destruction before the war, the respect and prestige of Syria is much higher now than in the past, and everyone looks at this country as a power,” Iran’s Supreme Leader said.

Assad noted during the meeting that the “strategic relations” between Iran and Syria stopped Israel from “ruling the region”.

“The course of events proved once again the correctness of the visions and approach that Syria and Iran have followed for years, especially in the face of terrorism,” the Syrian Arab News Agency quoted Assad as saying during his meeting with Khamenei.

From his side, President Raisi said that Iran has a “serious will” to develop its relations with Syria, especially economic ties and trade. The president went on to vow that Iran will support crisis-stuck Syria and its people, adding that “any suffering to Syrian is a suffering to Iran”.

Iran has been one of Syria’s biggest allies for more than two decades now. Tehran’s military and financial support enabled Damascus to overcome much of the problems it faced after the start of the war. However, the presence of Iranian forces in the country triggered a violent response from Israel.

Assad’s visit to Iran came amid reports of a near agreement between Iran and the US on the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal. Syria is posed to benefit greatly from the revival of the deal as it would bring about the end of the US maximum pressure campaign put in place by the former Trump administration.