Dr. Hossein Samsami, an Iranian economist and lecturer, who was responsible for the Finance Office in the Ahmadinejad government, said in a June 5, 2020 panel discussion that aired on Channel 5 (Iran) that Iran's intervention in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Afghanistan is for ideological reasons and because Islamic law obligates it to help the oppressed. He said, however, that Iran stands to gain economically from its presence in these countries, especially in light of the sanctions. Dr. Samsami said that Iraq was the second largest market for Iran's exports and that Syria has a lot of potential for Iranian economic investments.
Woman in audience: "This is my question: In our country, there is a rising discussion about the fact that our money is being spent in the countries of the region - in Syria, Lebanon, and the Arab countries - where the people are being told that Iran is plundering their resources. I want to know whether this presence of ours in the region also results in economic gain."
Dr. Hossein Samsami: "The main reason for our presence in the countries of the region - in the Muslim countries and mainly in the non-Muslim countries - is not economic. Not at all. This goes back to the essence of the difference between our system and the [American] system. They are a capitalist system and we are an Islamic system. According to our beliefs and our ideology, we are required from the perspective of religion and religious law to help those who are being oppressed. This is what the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran [Khomeini] taught us. He laid the foundations and we march forward in accordance with this.
"It is true that we act according to our beliefs and ideology. Can this result in economic achievements? Yes, it can. Of course it can lead to economic achievements. Last year, Iraq was the second-largest [recipient of] our exports, after China. We exported over 8.5 billion dollars to Iraq alone. We are using these countries to help with regard to some issues that are related to the sanctions. Syria has tremendous investment potential. Its ports, and its agriculture, because of the infrastructure... Its various industries... We are taking advantage of this tremendous potential and we are turning its economic wheels while we are benefitting and [Syria] is also benefitting. The same is true in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our intervention in these countries is for ideological purposes, but this can also lead to economic achievements."