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US 'maximum pressure' on Iran is empowering Russia in Syria

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The Syrian regime is suffering from the worst economic crisis since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011. The acute shortages of fuel, gas and electricity have frustrated even the staunchest loyalists who now publicly express their dissatisfaction against Bashar al-Assad's leadership.

Ironically, this comes as the regime and its backers are claiming "victory" against the rebels in an attempt to improve al-Assad's standing in the regional and international arena and convince the international community to start funding the reconstruction of the war-ravaged country.

A number of internal factors have contributed to the growing crisis, but recently, Washington's "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran has had a significant impact as well by decreasing Iranian financial and energy flows to Damascus. This has also weakened Iranian influence over the regime and allowed Russia to make significant gains at its expense.

From 2013 to 2016, Assad managed to keep running the areas under his control mainly thanks to the financial, economic and military support he had been getting from Iran and Russia. As his regime expanded the territory under its control over the past two years, it faced increasing challenges in providing basic goods and services to the general population and as a result, has become even more dependent on its foreign backers.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in March 2011, Iran has spent around $15bn annually to keep al-Assad in power. Subsidising the Syrian energy sector was one of the main pillars of its economic support.

Prior to the 2011 uprising, Syria produced 385,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), most of it coming from the eastern part of the country, and around 8.4 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year, most of which was used to generate electricity.

Currently, some estimates put oil consumption in areas controlled by the regime at around 136,000 bpd and production at 24,000 bpd, which means cash-strapped........

© Al Jazeera