LONDON/PARIS - Iran is poised to offer the Syrian authorities a short-term food lifeline with vital grains purchases as Western sanctions and mounting violence deter trade houses from doing deals with Damascus, international traders said Friday.
Both are targets of Western sanctions that, while not intended to disrupt food imports, have hurt shipments of all kinds by complicating financial transactions. Richer and more practiced in the ways of sidestepping such embargoes, Iran seems set to help its struggling ally, though its own means are limited.
"Iran will try to help Syria," said a senior trader at a major international grain house in France who likened Tehran's interest in helping Syrian President Bashar Assad stave off food shortages to Algerian state aid last year for Tunisian and Libyan autocrats who were trying to stifle popular unrest.
"I think most of it will be done via the black market," the trader added, meaning that bread wheat, animal feed and other grains could be shipped to Syria by Iran discreetly, avoiding the normal practice of international public tenders.