What will Assad Actually Win?

Okunma Sayısı : 707

Now that forces supporting the Syrian government have completed the takeover of Aleppo, and Russia, Turkey and Iran have negotiated a tenuous cease-fire, it is more than likely that President Bashar al-Assad and the regime he oversees will continue to govern Syria, in one form or another. In an interview with French media published last week, Mr. Assad stated that Aleppo signaled a “tipping point in the course of the war” and that the government is “on the way to victory.”

The Reality: Let’s take a look at the numbers. (While the following statistics are estimates, they will, if anything, get worse with the continuing matrix of wars in Syria.) More than 80 percent of Syrians live below the poverty line. Nearly 70 percent of Syrians live in extreme poverty, meaning they cannot secure basic needs, according to a 2016 report. That number has most likely grown since then. The unemployment rate is close to 58 percent, with a significant number of those employed working as smugglers, fighters or elsewhere in the war economy. Life expectancy has dropped by 20 years since the beginning of the uprising in 2011. About half of children no longer attend school — a lost generation. The country has become a public health disaster. Diseases formerly under control, like typhoid, tuberculosis, Hepatitis A and cholera, are once again endemic. And polio — previously eradicated in Syria — has been reintroduced, probably by fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Upward of 500,000 are dead from the war, and an untold number of Syrians have died indirectly from the conflict (the price for destroying hospitals, targeting health care professionals and using starvation as a weapon). With more than two million injured, about 11.5 percent of the prewar population have become casualties. And close to half the population of Syria is either internally or externally displaced. A 2015 survey conducted by the United Nations refugee agency looking at Syrian refugees in Greece found that a large number of adults — 86 percent — had secondary or university education. Most of them were under 35. If true, this indicates that Syria is losing the very people it will most need if there is to be any hope of rebuilding in the future.

The cost of reconstruction will be astronomical. A March 2016 study estimated that the total economic loss as a result of the conflict was $275 billion; industries across the country are decimated. Added to this will be the cost of needed repairs to infrastructure, which the International Monetary Fund estimates to be between $180 billion and $200 billion. Paying for rebuilding would require uncharacteristic generosity from the international community, but there is no reason to believe other countries would want to reward Mr. Assad for out-brutalizing the other side. His allies Russia and Iran have their own economic woes and are unlikely to be of much help.

In order to survive, the Syrian regime has had to rely to an extraordinary degree on Russian and Iranian forces, and their proxies, like Hezbollah. It really wasn’t the Syrian Arab Army that retook Aleppo. Indeed, the Syrian military is stretched so thin by geography and attrition that last month it lost most of the city of Palmyra (again) to the Islamic State while pro-government forces were shifted to the north. And although Mr. Assad still maintains some independence, Moscow and Tehran, and even Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, will have much to say in Damascus moving forward. Not only will Mr. Assad have to listen, he will probably have to withstand the pressure of his patrons’ urging him to step down at the end of his presidential term in 2021.

Finally, the battle is, in reality, far from over. Neither Mr. Assad’s government nor the rebels he is fighting have achieved their goals. The opposition can no longer overthrow the regime, but an active insurgency by armed opposition elements is all but assured, backed by regional patrons, such as Saudi Arabia, which in no way wants to see its rival, Iran, sail toward complete victory. And by their very nature, insurgencies require much less state support than opposition forces trying to hold and govern territory. Mr. Assad would then see what the former United Nations Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has called the “Somalization” of Syria. Mr. Assad would oversee a government that, like Somalia’s, will reign, but not rule, over the entire country. Instead, a number of forces — the government, opposition militias, Kurdish militias, pockets of the Islamic State — will control sections of territory.

The Syrian government may have a representative to the United Nations, have embassies in some countries, stamp passports and print currency, but it is hardly a state. Mr. Assad’s control, power and legitimacy have been severely circumscribed, whether he and his supporters know it or not. He will have to depend on continuing large-scale assistance from outside if he wants to restore even a portion of what Syria was. But it is a new Syria. He is the one who will have to reshape his political system to fit this new reality, rather than the other way around.

Important YDS Vocabulary

takeover-> the act of gaining control of an area, territory etc.
negotiated-> worked or talked with others to reach agreement/got through successfully
tenuous-> weak and thin
oversees-> supervises
poverty-> poorness
unemployment rate-> percent of people who want to work but cannot find a job
a significant number of-> a lot of
smugglers-> criminals who sneak illegal things into or out of places
life expectancy-> how long a person is expected to live
uprising-> violent effort by a group of people
diseases-> sicknesses
formerly-> before now
typhoid-> severe infection with fever and diarrhea
endemic-> commonly found in that place
previously-> before that/before now
eradicated-> destroyed/permanently removed
injured-> hurt
prewar-> before the war
casualties-> deaths
conducted-> managed and did/done
agency-> service business/government unit/power/functioning
indicates-> points to/shows
astronomical-> huge
estimated-> guessed a number
decimated-> destroyed
infrastructure-> basic equipment needed for a business or society to operate
monetary-> money-based
generosity-> help by giving money, by sharing, etc.
brutalizing-> violently injuring
allies-> friends
woes-> troubles
extraordinary-> amazing/very unusual
geography-> the study of or the location of mountains, rivers, hills, etc.
shifted-> moved/changed
withstand-> survive
urging-> strongly encouraging
rebels-> fighters
opposition-> fighting force/bad feelings
overthrow-> permanently end, by force
insurgency-> uprising, revolution
assured-> promised to/certain
backed by-> supported by
regional-> related to a large area
territory-> land area owned or controlled by someone
envoy-> messenger/representative
reign-> rule
entire-> whole
militias-> groups of armed citizens
embassies-> government offices
legitimacy-> realness/respect/truth
severely-> very much/very badly
circumscribed-> surrounded
portion of-> part of/amount of


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