Iran and Syria signed a deal for military cooperation in a meeting between the defense ministers of the two countries in Damascus, the Tasnim news agency reported on Monday.
Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami travelled to Damascus on Sunday for a two-day visit, meeting Syrian President Bashar Assad and senior military officials, Tasnim reported.
"We hope to have a productive role in the reconstruction of Syria," Hatami said on arrival in Syria, according to Fars News. Iran has previously made commitments to help rebuild Syria, including the construction of some 20,000 housing units.
Tasnim did not provide any details about the military cooperation deal.
The Iranian defense minister told the Hezbollah-affiliated Al Mayadeen that Tehran will work to rebuild and rehabilitate Syria's military industries as well as the Syrian armed forces.
A senior Syrian official told Russian news agency Sputnik that Hatami's visit was not just about the reconstruction of Syria following the civil war, but also meant to send a message of increased military cooperation between the two countries in response to Israel and American demands to remove Iranian forces from Syria.
Iranian forces have backed Assad in the country's civil war. Senior Iranian officials have said their military presence in Syria is at the invitation of the Assad government and they have no immediate plans to withdraw.
Arab media have tied Hatami's visit to Syria with the Assad army's preparations for a big attack on Idlib in the north of the country, one of the last strongholds of the rebels seeking to oust the Syrian president.
Syrian Defense Minister Ali Abdullah Ayyoub said during the meeting with his Iranian counterpart that "We'll free Idlib, with an agreement or fire power."
The Idlib region, a refuge for civilians and rebels displaced from other areas of Syria as well as powerful jihadist forces, was hit by a wave of air strikes and shelling this month, in a possible prelude to a full-scale government offensive.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton said last week that Iran should remove its forces from Syria. "Iranian activity in the region has continued to be belligerent: what they are doing in Iraq, what they are doing in Syria, what they are doing with Hezbollah in Lebanon, what they are doing in Yemen, what they have threatened to do in the Strait of Hormuz," he said at a press conference in Jerusalem.
The Trump advisor also defended Israel’s right to launch strikes on missiles or “other threatening weapons” brought into war-torn Syria by Iran as “a legitimate act of self defense on the part of Israel.”