During his state visit to Syria this week, Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi made his way to the Sayyida Zaynab, a shrine on the outskirts of Damascus dedicated to the daughter of Ali, Shia Islam’s first imam, for a speech loaded with symbolism.
The shrine is one of the most revered pilgrimage destinations for Shia Muslims, so no surprise Raisi made it the venue for one of the most important foreign policy speeches of his presidency.
Raisi is the first Iranian president to visit Syria since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2010. It may seem like an overdue visit, as it was Iran, along with Russia, that backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad through the 2011 revolution and subsequent deadly civil war. For Iranian leaders, Syria is a victory for the so-called resistance axis, in a war that it has blamed on the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
In his speech at the shrine, Raisi left out any mention of Saudi Arabia, a sign of the times, given Iran’s reconciliation with the kingdom. But he positioned himself as one of the leaders of the resistance axis, alongside Assad and Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah.