Syrian Crisis from Internal Deadlock to Internationalization
Research on the military strike consequences against Syria
Dr. Samir Altaqi (General Director)
Dr. Abdullah Tourkmani
Dr. Aref Dalilah
– Part 1: The International situation:
o The United States
o Gulf Cooperation Council Countries
– Part 2: Military scenarios of the strike on the Syrian regime
– Part 3: The economic situation and the possible consequences of the strike
– Part 4: The potential impact of the strike on the situation of the armed and civil forces of the revolution
Part 1: The International situation:
o The United States:
Changes occurring in the United States’ world view during Obama’s remaining second term.
Many questions were raised about the regression of the American role in the Middle East, particularly after the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq. At the same time, Obama’s foreign policy has received a lot of criticism. However, the decision of the American strike on Syria will prove them wrong.
More discussions were raised about the withdrawal of the US and delivering the region affairs to regional allied deputies. Nonetheless, there are many factors that proved the inaccuracy of the logic in managing the Arab Spring crisis:
– The ideological capacity of the Turkey’s position and the limited influence it has on the administration of the Arab Spring crisis in Syria, Egypt, and Tunisia, created obstacles and many mistakes.
– Qatar was working on becoming the strategic arm of this project: delivering the administration of the Arab Spring to political Islam. Nonetheless, the Islamic political powers failed in achieving an establishing alliance of a new national project in those countries. On the other hand, Qatar has randomly supported a wide part of the Islamic extremist powers. This has led to creating uncontrollable terrorist factions with a huge funding that had a negative influence on the route of the Syrian crisis. As political Islam and its project were getting weak, serious risks appeared due to the aberrance of the Arab Spring course, which has gone towards serving Iran and radical extremist powers.
We need to mention that the heritage of the American war against terrorism has directly affected on the issue of making a move towards resolving the crisis in Syria. Many specialized American experts of the foreign policy expressed and many Democrats who are afraid of repeating the Iraqi experience expressed that. It would make the US hold the responsibility of the negative results after the strike.
For a long time, Obama seemed that he was concentrating his efforts on the definition of the American geo-economical location in the world through managing the relation with China. Additionally, the role of the Middle East has shrunk as one of the singular energy sources in the world. Hence, the American interests in the Middle East have started to have secondary important. Not only that, the US found in Russia’s enthusiasm to monopolize managing the Syrian crisis
Iran’s nuclear file crisis showed lots of avoidance on the American administration’s in the terms of reasserting its traditional allies about its seriousness in putting Iran under military pressure, in case it continuous manipulating the negotiations file.
However, the incidents soon showed lots of obstacles which reached the edge of obstinacy in Obama’s approach to the Arab Spring. This has become clear in both Egypt and Russia (Snowden Affair, and military manipulations with China) and Putin’s deceiving behavior regarding the Syrian crisis and other factors that took Syria into the stage of obstinacy. It clearly threatens to be spread in the region while the allies of the US in this region believe that America started abandoning its commitment that some began searching to fulfill this gap to reestablish the international and regional alliance.
All of these features seemed clear on the Congress holiday eve:
President Obama was supposed to make August a month to pass the immigration law project to the congress, in addition to paying for the plan with the Republicans on the fiscal deficit for the future to complete the success series that the White House administration achieved. However, the current reality has made Obama face more challenges in his fifth year in the White House. Those challenges would disband both the local and foreign efforts, especially after the spillover of Snowden, uncovering the secret government surveillance program, the mounting controversy on health insurance and immigration laws, in addition to the Republicans repeated attempts to draw attention to the possibility of the failure in the major deal with Iran. Hence, the president has to reevaluate his internal policies and on the level of the foreign policy.
On the day before he left to spend his summer vacation, President Obama clarified his intentions to reevaluate his administration policy. He declared his wish to go to the Congress and create the suitable reforms for the secret surveillance program of the National Security Agency. Nonetheless, there was no declaration of his intentions to stop recording phone calls and gather information. Meanwhile, the attack on Obama’s policy continues to grow because of his frequent uncertain attitudes in adapting a clear attitude towards the global crises. The Republicans are trying to blame the president for withdrawing from the Middle East and leaving it alone.
Meanwhile, new doctrines appeared in the Democratic Party objecting the current policies of the American President. This might be an indication of the Obama era’s end, or to make it go through major modifications. A number of American figures in the foreign policy, the former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the Special Envoy to Sudan Richard Williamson, presented a deep research on the “Protection Law” of the civilians. They discussed the matter of moving from talk stage to action stage. They referred to the importance of the US commitment to its leading position in the world as well as the Protection Law standards in order to create an international base that aims to protect the civilians from genocides and crimes against humanity.
However, the chemical use in Syria and the call for Obama to make his commitments have demanded him to change and reevaluate his policies, in addition to correcting his mistakes in a shorter time. These would make put the American President under a bigger pressure.
The expected scenarios of the strike:
The American administration needs to consider many factors before the attack. The expected scenarios of the strike’s nature, objectives, and results would directly effect on its success. Additionally, determining the objectives of the American political and military intervention in Syria would play the biggest role in deciding the nature of the military strike. At the same time, the American administration is taking into consideration the possible responses from the Syrian regime and its allies into consideration.
Based on the previous analogy, there are four possible scenarios:
“No Strike” Scenario:
A possible interpretation of America’s avoidance of a military strike on Syria is a political self-evaluation, especially after the noticeable decline in the general strategic position of the U.S. in the region. In addition to that, the occurrence of a deep state of strategic exhaustion and malfunction in the American case, which in turn, is expected to cause negative rebounds and continue to worsen. It is also expected to reach that in the framework of carrying out an international negotiation line and making agreements with America on not having a military attack in order to reach a political solution for the Syrian crisis. It would be guaranteed by Russia through providing the Syrian regime approval on Geneva Convention’s demands.
Although this scenario is not really possible, we cannot take it out of consideration. Obama’s withdrawal from carrying out the military operation would be a huge political failure for him on the
Limited and Symbolic Strike scenario:
In this scenario, only few military targets would be attacked without reducing the fighting capacities of the regime or weakening it. Hence, the conflict basics would not really change.
This scenario would not politically save the American president. All sides, whether they are with or against the attack, would criticize him. Therefore, Obama would appear as a weak president and American as a state which has no role in the Middle East any more. Obama would also allow Bashar Assad to carry out more violent attacks, while his allies would adapt more hostile policies towards the US.
The Qualitative Attack scenario:
This means making a well-planned military strike. It would equally strike the power centers of the regime and the extremist groups in order to prevent them all from gaining more power. Nonetheless, there should be coordination with the moderate military forces for the after strike period so chaos would not spread. Additionally, we need to consider as well that the fast fall down of the regime would cause a state of disorder. The qualitative attack goals cannot be complete unless there is a military and financial support for the moderate military forces and the peaceful civil administrations.
Hence, the qualitative attack may lead to a state of struggle stability allowing:
• Creating secure areas out of the regime’s control which allow passing aids.
• Creating local authorities. The Syrian sides involved in the struggle would be convinced that there is no one who can finalize the struggle for his own benefits.
• Supporting moderate forces in the regime supporters’ camp.
– Sweeping Random Strike Scenario under the absence of a clear policy of supporting the moderate powers
The Syrian regime would receive major strikes that would exhaust its security and military abilities. Afterwards, it would collapse quickly without having alternatives that can fill the gap left by the regime. As a result, the extremist forces would take advantage of this circumstance and control it.
The western military attack led by the US against Syria would be taking back the American role in the Syrian crisis. The US needs to prove it is still an effective player after it used to take the leadership from the behind. It is well-known that Obama is going through a lot of pressure to generally reform his policy in the region, especially after the use of the chemical weapon in Syria. The crisis in Syria has changed from regional to international.
From this perspective, the American intervention into Syria would not change the struggle routes on the Syrian and regional levels to support only America’s allies in the region. It would also leave serious changes in Obama’s policy during the remained period of his presidency. At the same time, this new dimension may not be a radical change in his former foreign policy, but a gradual transition to examine those policies.
The Russian attitude towards the incidents of the Arab Spring and its collapses seemed to be too pragmatic and to go back to the pillars of the former Soviet Union policy. Those pillars stand on the principles of “Every loss for the US is a gain for Russia” and “Against the Sunni political Islam arrival to policy”.
As for the Syrian crisis, Russia tried to keep the US under the umbrella of the United Nations. It also attempted to persuade it that it is able to manage the Syrian file and to take it gradually towards talks and political solutions. However, Russia did not only support the regime and empowered its political, military, and financial situations, but it also worked on getting benefits from the fact that USA accepted to take the lead from the behind. It was for gaining more time and giving the chance to its allies to achieve a conclusive victory which would practically take the US out of the region. It became clear as the Russian administration continues believing in the weakness of the American administration and its inability to overcome its economic crisis and the military involvement complex.
The Russian administration continued a dual policy based on two axes:
The first axis: carrying on the talks with US to soothe its fears.
The second axis: taking advantage of the current situations to achieve more success in filling the gap left by the withdrawal of the American role.
However, the Russian Administration failed in persuading the Syrian regime to carry out dialogue and search for a political exit. In return, the regime failed in making a strategic breakthrough that would allow it to take back control over the country, in addition to Russia’s failure in preventing the crisis from spreading to the regional area.
All those situations put the US leadership from the behind and delivering the Syrian solution to Russia in the matter of great doubt. This doubt increased more after a number of the Russian reactions. They showed that the Russian administration is ready to seriously escalate tension in the relation with the US, whether in the issue of Snowden, the Chinese Russian military exercises, or the situation in Middle Asia and the requirements of the withdrawal of the American forces from Afghanistan. At this point, the American-Russian relations reached a state of extreme tension where Russia is no longer able to convince the US to continue taking the leadership from the behind.
There is no doubt that the military strike against the Syrian regime’s capacities would receive mixed reactions from the Russian leadership:
1- Firstly, it may attempt to make this attack end in fail and cost an unbearable budget for the US. This direction carries important military and political dimensions.
2- In return, Russia continues trying to keep America’s attitude inside the framework of the United Nations as it feels it has failed because of the US decision without the UN authorization. It believes that keeping the US under the umbrella of United Nations would restrict its military efforts allowing Russia to have a certain role after the attack.
There is no doubt that the US ability to achieve the hard task based on a successful strike would have many results. The regime’s military abilities would be reduced leaving the chance for the moderate powers authority to be established for the Syrian uprising on both military and civil levels. Moreover, the Russian policy would be in a very difficult situation for the Russian administration.
After Russia decided to be in a hostile position against the Sunni Islamic world and to cover up Assad regime’s crimes, it is currently facing the image of who support the temporal powers in the region and encourage them to go to the end.
For a long time, the continuousness of the American hesitation showed that the traditional allies of the US have started to look for a powerful international partner they could benefit from. It was obvious after Bandar and Netanyahu’s visits to Moscow. Nonetheless, the chemical attack carried out by Assad has allowed the US to take back the lead and to reassure its allies about its role in the region.
The American strike on the Syrian regime would possibly lead to a qualitative change in the general climate of the Russian policy in the region. There is no doubt that many issues would depend on the amount of damage caused by the diplomatic, political, and indirect military confrontation between Russia and the US, plus the consequences which would occur to Russia’s relations with the regional countries whether they agree on the attack or would work on stopping it.
The first signs that are triggered by the high tension in the relations between Russia and the US indicate that Russia could try to punch Obama in the nose by assisting the regime indirectly. This would be by supporting the regime politically, diplomatically, and using information, or assisting it with arms.
Hence, most of the destiny of Russia’s position in the region would depend on how much the strike would damage the military capacities of the regime with the least possible loss of the civilians’ lives and the Public civil institutions. Also, it would depend on the success in enforcing the moderate military structure and filling the gaps created by the fall and relocating the regime forces. What would make this imagination more possible is the continuous Russian military support for the regime. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the Syrian arms importation from Russia raised about 600% between 2007-2011. Additionally, Russia provides 72% of the Syrian regime military capacity.
In case the attack is carried out with its healing appearance, there are a number of results for Russia. It would certainly affect on Russia’s position and its international image. It would find itself supporting the extent powers in the regions and encourage them to create the catastrophic loss.
Additionally, it is out of the question that the success of the strike according to the third scenario would increase the anger of a huge audience in the region.
On the other hand, we find that the US is not interested in excluding Russia entirely from the region unless Russia works aggressively to make the attack fail. Hence, we can presume that America would not mind allowing Russia to have a role in the final settlement process, whether it is in the framework of Geneva 2 or a national reconciliation outside the convention. This would make some of the Syrian components relieved and hope more for a solution.
Therefore, it is possible that Russia would carry on taking some initiatives for the Syrian crisis. It would also probably invite the Security Council as soon as the strike occurs and work on ceasefire between the US and the regime as soon as possible. It would be an attempt to limit the damage in the regime’s abilities and prevent the strike from reaching its goals.
Gulf Cooperation Council:
The recent years of the Syrian crisis were marked by the role of the major regional states, such as Turkey, Iran, and Israel, as they started to rise in managing the strategic situation in the region. All those are on the expenses of the Arab variable that seemed unable to have control over the situation.
On the over hand, the new American policies raised fears for the Gulf Cooperation Council, which considers the US to be its strategic ally. Those fears were shown in the following phenomenon:
– After the US and the Gulf Cooperation Council created together the axis of the American Alliance with the Arabs for a long time, the US gave up its traditional allies and left them to their destiny as the Arab revolutions broke out. The Council was left unprotected against the regional storm from one side and the fears it had towards Obama’s loose policy with Iran, in addition to the US failure to force Israel in the serious involvement in the Israeli Palestinian peace process.
Therefore, the Gulf Cooperation Council had to create alternative policies to prevent risks from the region. We say that the Saudi- Emirati axis was hugely active in the Syrian crisis, especially lately since there were no other stabilizers.
Bandar Bin Sultan’s visit to Russia was one of the most important diplomatic activities that expressed the Gulf’s concerns about the American policy. That visit also defined the extent to which gulf countries could reach in their plans to prep the surrounding environment and secure their interest in case the US continues its current policy of leaving the region under the mercy of unprecedented regional and national powers where the U.S. has no national ally.
Therefore, the importance of the transition in the American political route through the possible strike could be a positive indicator for the Gulf Cooperation Council countries:
– The common impression of the American policy efficiency in the face of the Iranian policy would be overcome.
– – Iran’s failure is managing the Syrian crisis would certainly affect on its regional role and influence not in Syria only, but also in Lebanon and Iraq.
We can say that the Gulf Cooperation Council is back to the head of the political movement in the region as Egypt’s incidents calmed down, Qatar’s dominant role withdrew, and Turkish showed its limited effect.
In case the third role succeeds, it is expected that the Gulf Cooperation Council would be able to brag with its late successes and reestablish its relation with the American ally, in addition to gaining an important role in the Syrian crisis route.
Part 2: Military Scenarios of the Strike on the Syrian Regime
Obama’s administration succeeded in creating many scenarios for Assad’s fall. Nonetheless, its only weakness is the inability to develop a strategy to create stability for the period after Assad’s removal.
The following scenarios are mainly related to the Congress vote. Obama took a risk when he bet on the Congress approval without considering the consequences. Additionally, he has turned the case from an external case to an internal one.
As the midterm congressional elections are about to begin soon, the representatives are paying lots of attention to the public opinion, which still objects the strike. This would push many representatives into showing more refusals for the strike.
Obama’s administration has two options in case Congress declines to authorize Obama’s request for the military attack:
– Carrying out the attack in spite of the Congress disapproval. The Democrats would pay for it in Congress, especially those who are going through the upcoming midterm elections. They need to show disagreements with the White House, whether they are on the strike or other decisions.
– Obeying Congress decision. The administration would greatly lose credibility on the international scene.
The Congress disapproval to carry out the strike would make Obama lose a lot of his influence inside the States, whether he chooses to attack Syria or not. Moreover, his popularity would decline like what happened to George W. Bush at the end of his second presidential period.
Some political initiatives may appear and help Obama save his face. They might come from Russia, Iran, or Assad. Moscow can present an initiative that seems to rebuke Assad, and then goes into negotiations. Assad may do a huge performance like arresting a high ranked officer for using chemical weapons, or the Iranians may suggest an initiative which concentrates on delaying the attack and presenting a political solution.
The problem with the previous possible initiatives is that they come from the outside. Even if they let Obama save himself on the short term, they represent a new strategic danger on his administration after his fate got dependent again on one of the US opponents.
Obama has to make many difficult concessions to the Republicans in order to get their votes. During that time, if the Republicans are able to establish new alliances, they would use them to abort the second phase of Obama’s reforms on the health insurance system and stop the project to increase the deficit ceiling, which means allowing more space for his administration for spending, in addition to other matters. The Republicans would take the lead at the beginning of the New Year within the Congress return for convention.
The possible scenarios might be summarized as following:
1. First scenario: the attack would not occur.
If the US, specifically Obama, cancels the military attack decision, it would give the Syrian regime the chance to move and use more violence. It would be relieved for the disappearance of the military intervention danger as the continuous support from Iran and Russia is guaranteed. Hence, this increasing violence would cause more killing and more extremism
In case the Congress does not authorize Obama for the military strike, the American administration would provide much more arms for the brigades to guarantee the change of power balances on land. This matter could increase violence and extremism.
2. Second Scenario: symbolic and formal strike.
– The symbolic and formal strike, which is going to be a few rocket hits on few targets and military positions. They would not seriously weaken the regime’s military skills. As a result, the regime would be able to overcome the effects of this strike and guarantee his military control to remain.
3. Third scenario: a powerful, effective, and qualitative attack
– It would be carried out through wide military strikes on sensitive targets in Syria. It would destroy Syria’s air defense systems, air bases, combat aircrafts, the headquarters locations, and fixed or mobile rocket emplacements (the ability of hitting them is proportional), in addition to command and control centers. This operation would greatly paralyze their tasks.
– The list of determining the targets and choosing weapons would be bigger in order to include 75 targets at the beginning depending on the reaction received later. The list might become bigger to include direct and targeted munitions. Direct and targeted munitions groups and JDAM deep bunker-busters, including laser-guided bombs and radar-guided missiles, would be used to achieve the qualitative dimension of destroying vital targets.
4. Fourth Scenario: the entire American reliance on the military forces through accomplishing a wide and complete strike, which would not be coordinated with the civil administration and the Free Army.
Part 3: The Economic Situation and the Possible Consequences of the Strike
It is no longer possible to talk about any economic system in Syria. What are left are the remains of a state economy. It used to be coherent, integrated, self-centered, and centrally administered in spite of the enormous growth of the private sector’s share in creating the gross domestic product covering 67% of it in 2010.
The exchange rate of the Syrian pound against the dollar remained almost steady from the beginning of the 1990s till 2011. It even slightly went up from 52 Syrian Pounds US Dollar to 46.5 US Dollars.
On the other hand, the wheat production rate was stable at meeting local needs, reaching 3.5-4 million tons per year. In spite of this fact, the export surplus has disappeared in the recent years, which made Syria go back to import wheat in order to fulfill its needs.
As for cotton, the production has dropped down from 1 million tons to 600,000 tons per year. The government continued exporting more than half of its production, while it used the rest for local spinners and weavers industries.
The crude oil production in Syria has dropped down from 360,000 barrels per day to 340,000 barrels per day. This has left a gap of more than 2 billion US Dollars per year in the Syrian oil balance.
However, the foreign-exchange reserves remained high at the rate of 17-18 billion US Dollars according to the official statements. It was due to the government’s plans of increasing revenue and reducing expenditure during the past 2 decades.
Since 2005, the economic and social indicators started to develop negatively in Syria. The rate of the gross domestic product growth went down as the rates of poverty and unemployment raised up. Additionally, the national income per capita declined, while internal and external migration increased. Competitiveness in the Syrian economy and its investment attractiveness dropped down. Furthermore, new projects movement has mostly stopped, whereas modernization was limited to only conspicuous consumption growth, which is represented in the luxurious and non-popular residential constructions. The number of private cars has extremely increased as well after decades of deprivation because of prohibiting importation or the high customs taxes.
These accumulations had their negative effects which created the suitable circumstances for the socio-political explosion. This explosion which Syria has witnessed started after the so-called the Arab Spring in February 2011. The public uprising in Syria broke out in Syria demanding for freedom, dignity, and change.
In the second half of 2011, the economic environment has witnessed a number of complete changes. It started when the value of the Syrian pound started to go down losing more than 30% of its value until the end of 2011. Paralysis continued spreading in the center and the outskirts of the Syrian economy during 2012. Nonetheless, 2013 has witnessed what is similar to the complete collapse in the economic environment and the economic administration operation.
It is no longer possible to talk about a coherent, integrated, self-centered, and centrally administered economy. It is also not probable to talk about private and public sectors or markets. The economic system was torn apart on the sectorial and geographic levels. The authorities and central organizations lost their abilities of carrying out its basic tasks.
The Syrian market lost also its union and even its seasonality of some basic products although the central authority maintained the traditional formal speech, such as cash and credit management, construction, logistics, import and export, support, ect..
Nonetheless, the central administration persist stiffly in functioning until the markets became extremely divided and differentiated in the terms of the goods prices and availability. The central authority also quickly lost the control over its traditional tasks that used to perform socially and economically as it lost the security and political authority.
The government administration lost basically the control over the main strategic goods such as oil, wheat, and cotton, which all fell under the control of the armed opposition in the eastern north areas. The available goods were cleared away from the public needs. This matter has undermined the foundations of reproduction and its requirements for the following years.
The governmental administration lost as well the control over the main crossing points. This has allowed not only the crossing of individuals, such as the displaced and armed coming from abroad. It has also allowed all kinds of goods to be passed, some factories to be dismantled, and basic products to be transferred from the inside to the outside away from the surveillance and control of the governmental administration. Hence, the administration lost a lot of income and the needed money to provide basics like oil and grain. It has caused a severe imbalance to the market, in addition to the wide destruction and the reduction of the production capacities in both public and private sectors. Unemployment has enormously increased turning the jobless individuals to the armed rebels or different kinds of offenders.
• The government budget deficit has extremely widened to be about 745 billion Syrian pounds.
• The national income has shrunk more than 10%, which was the officially declared number in 2012.
• The exchange rate of the Syrian pound has enormously deteriorated from 70 SYP at the end of 2011 to 200 SYP in June 2013. In July, it dropped down to 350 SYP then it went up to 200 SYP before the talks on the military strike. As the news started reporting about a near military attack on Syria, the value of the Syrian pound reached 265 SYP, then it went up again after delaying the strike.
• The prices of essential food items, medicine, fuel, building materials, transportation costs, and others have hugely increased. Moreover, the control on prices was lost depending on supply and demand, in addition to the risks of transportation, distribution, exchange rate fluctuations, security explosions and others.
• The Syrian market has been fragmented depending on the consumption areas and the goods sources, which are the production zones or import lines.
• The tourism sector has been almost completely paralyzed, while half of the health and education sectors have become inactive according to the quantitative estimates. As for the level of those sectors, it has gone down in all areas, whether they are controlled by the armed opposition or the regime.
• The Syrian pound value has dropped down against the US Dollar and other currencies. It reached 346 SYP per 1 USD in black market in July 2013 as a result of the decrease of foreign exchange reserves, speculation operations, in addition to the psychological factor.
• The investment spending of the state has stopped and the current expenditure regarding the salaries of state employees in the areas outside the regime’s control.
• The prices of the consumer products prices have unreasonably increased. Qualitative pricing phenomenon has spread reaching the inflation rate of 300%, which was declared by the Central Bureau of Statistics. It caused further decline in the individuals spending and created additional pressure upon all Syrian classes. The citizens incomes shrank in the face of the rising prices and spending priorities in the time when the rate of unemployment and jobless people has become about 50%.
• The trust in the Syrian pound became less. Therefore, commodities prices became pegged with the US Dollar through binding them with price messaging or daily prices on purchase date.
• More foreign exchange reserves were exhausted in the Central Bank as it attempted to take back the balance in the markets. Meanwhile, the military operations went on, and the state revenues from foreign exchange have stopped.
• Crisis in supplying fuel appeared because of the pipelines transport between the provinces which were hit, the difficulties in gasoline tankers movement between the areas, in addition to the problems of importing petroleum products and the reliance on shipments from countries which support the regime.
• The state tried to face the low value of the Syrian pound and the foreign-exchange reserves matters by making agreements with its allies, like the barter deal with Iran, re-exportation agreement with Venezuela, and future project agreements such as free trade zone with Russia. The regime also tried to import commodities and sell them directly to the merchants.
• Getting financial support of 7 billion US dollars from Iran, in addition to the Russian support of 550 million US dollars per month.
• The infrastructure, plus the public and private properties continued to be destroyed. The number of the damaged housing units reached about 1.5 million destroyed or partially damaged housing units. The estimated value of the loss in the public sector institutions was 1.5 trillion Syrian pounds, which is equivalent to about 7.5 billion US Dollars. The number of ruined or destroyed government enterprises was more than 9,000 properties.
• A network of unofficial monopolies of goods appeared in a number of companies in countries outside Syria like Lebanon, Jordan, and Dubai. They are related to figures from the regime who try to take advantage of the economic blockade imposed on Syria. They have created unofficial import and distribution networks imposing their own prices on goods and imports.
• The policy of the government concentrated on two main missions: the first is defensive, in which the Ministries of Defense and Interior have participated with different General Intelligences in the military and security tasks to protect the authority. The other mission is the Ministries attempts to carry on their tasks like the Ministries of Electricity, Water, Health, Education, Higher Education, storage and marketing intuitions, and the Central Bank. For example, they tried to fix the communication, electricity, and water networks. They tried to activate hospitals, universities, schools, plus providing commodities.
Pegging goods with the US Dollar value continued by binding price messaging or daily purchase price of the goods. Meanwhile, the commercial links between the Syrian parts with the nearby countries have become tighter. Most goods from the north areas are transferred through the Turkish borders, whereas Damascus imports most of its goods through Daraa, Jordan, and Lebanon. The features of the citizens’ adjustment to the security and economic crises appeared as a new spirit rose carrying the desire of many categories to live with the daily changes.
Changes in Some Basic Goods Prices
Change Price in the Beginning of 2013 Prices in the Beginning of August Item
200% 150 50 Milk (1 KG)
194% 250 85 Rice
131% 600 260 Egg (30)
340% 550 125 Yoghurt (1 KG)
200% 1500 500 Lamb (1 KG)
100% 1100 550 Chicken (1 KG)
213% 375 120 Butter (200 G)
50% 105 70 Sugar (1 KG)
176% 690 250 Cooking Oil ( 1L)
169% 350 130 Deep Frying Oil (1L)
The Syrian Pound maintained its value against the US Dollar during August 2013 as the exchange value was stable at the rate of 200+ 5 SYP per US Dollar. However, when the news kept talking about an imminent strike on Syria, the value exchange became 230 SYP per 1 US Dollar on the following day, the 27th of August, then it became 265 on the 28th. As for the intervention price of the Central Bank, it kept going down 1 SYP per day before the news on the military attack were broadcasted until it reached 114 SYP, then it rose up to 124 SYP on the 27th of August, then 126 SYP on the 28th. Generally, most basic goods were available in the markets as the exchange rate was fixed at 300 SYP per 1 USD. Meanwhile, the Syria’s Central Bank Governor declared the complete preparedness for financing all imports depending on the market needs at the exchange value of 175 SYP per 1 USD. It was an attempt form the Central Bank to control the demand for the US Dollar and keep its value steady in the Syrian markets. The following table shows the prices of the Syrian pound prices against the US Dollar during the past period.
Black Market Price Official Price Date
230 124 27/8
265 126 28/8
260 127 29/8
235 129 31/8
230 129 1/9
215 129 2/9
The induction process and predicting the economic effects of the attack both depend on two main factors: the attack period and its intensity. Furthermore, the economic effects in the short and medium terms would be determined through the targets and their strategic importance on the commerce and logistics levels.
Additionally, the areas in the north east and south of Syria, which are out of the government administration control, have been able to provide goods because of the open boarders of Turkey, Jordan, and somehow Iraq. Meanwhile, the areas under the government administration control, like Damascus and the Coast, depend on the imports from Lebanon and abroad. However, the middle area is provided with needs from different sources.
The economic situation in the areas out of the government control:
The economic circumstances in the areas out of the regime control have gone through many crises. Nonetheless, as the incidents in Syria have become rationally stable, it became clear to know the liberated areas from the ones which are still under the regime’s control. Moreover, the revolutionary powers began to rearrange the economic sources in the areas they are present in.
At the beginning, the goods sources in the liberated areas were limited only to storage. This has led to the huge increase of the goods prices and it was hard to find some in the markets. When the revolution forces took control over the crossing points between Syria and Turkey, goods started to come from Turkey to be distributed in the liberated areas. This was done by the rebels through reasonably safe crossing points or by making agreements over the share of goods at barriers ruled by the regime.
After the rebels controlled many areas in Syria and worked on laying a siege on some of the areas under the regime rule, the food prices went up in the regime’s areas because of the lack or the risks of the supply routes. At the same time, the prices of the goods went gradually back to normal in the liberated areas, as the situation is in Aleppo and its rural areas. This phenomenon started to appear in Daraa and other cities.
Aleppo City has gone through so many robberies. The factories and machines were transferred by land to Turkey. Liberating the crossing point benefited sides, Turkey and the opposition. The rebels used the crossing point to get mainly arms, in addition to foods and daily needs. The arms deals were paid by the funds the rebels receive and from selling the machines they took over. For example, oil wells equipment of value 15-20 million US Dollar were dismantled and taken to the Turkish borders to be sold to Gulf for only 1 million dollars. Such incidents included the ruins in the controlled by the opposition. 12 out of 36 museums were emptied while ruins and antiquities were sold to different authorities for low prices in order to buy arms and foods. However, the destination of the antiquities smuggling is different from industrial machinery smuggling, which is sent to Turkey in the north, while antiquities are smuggled to Jordan in the south. It is believed that those operations take place under the knowledge of the regime employees of the system on the Syrian-Jordanian border.
Another example of the Syrian goods taken to the nearby countries, olive oil produced in the largest oil factory in Aleppo is sold to Turkey for 50 to 85 U.S. Cents only, which is equivalent to 145 Syrian Pounds. Meanwhile, the price of 1 liter of oil in Damascus is about 950-1000 Syrian pounds.
Studies show the number of refugees and emigrants from Syria to the neighboring countries has reached 1,405,377 Syrians in the middle of 2013, as it is clarified in the charts. Statistics also show that after the threat of the US strike on the Syrian regime, the number of the travellers to Jordan reached the number of 8000 travelers per day. Meanwhile, the number reached almost 40,000 people over the crossing point at Lebanon.
Nonetheless, this emigration has benefited the areas controlled by the rebels. It has eased the economic burden for the leaderships of the liberated areas. It also has reduced the damage and the possible loss of lives in case of targeting those areas.
Nevertheless, the increasing numbers of refugees face difficulties in reaching the poor camps in the neighboring countries. It made the matter of financing and providing the needs for those camps a difficult matter as well. As a result, Jordan had to put more restrictions on the Syrians’ entry to its land, while Iraq prohibited Syrians from entering without any specific conditions.
In case of the American attack on Syria, the economic pressure on the Syrian regime would be bigger. It is expected for the economic support for the liberated areas to be increased. This would reduce the goods prices while the prices in the areas controlled by the regime would go up. The US has declared it would ease the embargo on the imports heading to the liberated zones. This is what is expected to occur on a larger scale as the ban on non-liberated areas would be tighter. It would weaken the regime and make the living situation in its areas live in economic crises.
Possible scenarios for the economic situation after the strike:
We will not discuss the consequences of the first and second scenarios since they would in “Do Nothing Scenario”. Hence, we are going to concentrate on discussing:
The Third Scenario (The steadiness of the conflict and empowering administration and security in the liberated areas):
It can be accompanied by increasing the trade movement, transport, and mobility between different zones according to implied agreements on goods exchange and the movement of people, especially between the south and north of Syria. This would increase abundance and cut down the prices due to the low cost of the transport. Therefore, the issue of US Dollar reduction would be uncertain after the strike.
Moreover, the steadiness of the conflict would create safe passages and areas which would allow the return of a big number of emigrants and displaced Syrians, plus passing food and financial assistance for them. This would prepare and facilitate the return of the economic movement on the district level, and on the state level later. However, if the attack takes a long period of time, this option will pave the way for the country to be divided.
It seems that this is the most predictable possibility, according to the statements from the sides which are getting prepared for the military strike.
Fourth Scenario: huge military strike which would cause the complete collapse of the regime:
The fall down of the regime would paralyze the daily and economic life as a result of the lack of security. The Syrian pound value will immensely collapse as a result for the speculative operations and the absence of the central authority. Public and private properties would go through organized looting operations by the conflict sides. The supporting forces for the regime would try to have their final material gains while the opposition forces would seek the opportunity for retribution upon the areas that are less damaged and gain out of it. Generally, Syria would witness political, economic, and security breakdown for a long time. No one would be able to carry out control operations whether by the opposition forces or what have left from the governmental institutions. The areas would be isolated from each other on the economic level and the commerce movement between the provinces would be stopped. The relations between the areas and the neighboring countries would be stronger, while commodities such as fuel, bread, and sugar would be unavailable or their prices would enormously go up.
In spite of the fact that any estimation would be partial under the absence of accurate indicators, we can say generally that the value of the material loss would not be less than 100 billion US Dollars in private and public sectors. The loss in wasted chances at present and in the future is not less than 100 billion US Dollars. Moreover, the number which cannot be estimated is the human loss and the value of human resources. More than 200,000 were killed or missed. Additionally, more than 5 million Syrians inside the boarders include human capitals, humanitarian moral values, and community values which cannot be reproduced or made up.
Part Four: The potential impact of the strike on the situation of the armed and civil forces of the revolution
We will try to analyze the features of the situation in Syria before the 21st of August:
Through our different studies in Orient Research Centre, we can say that the general situation seems completely obstinate inside the state. The regime continues depressing the general crowd by pursuing the random killing and trying to penetrate opposition positions.
However, we can also conclude that it is almost impossible to imagine that the regime is able to carry out any strategic penetration in the military situation. Otherwise, it would change radically the demarcation lines or threaten the continuousness of the uprising powers control over the wide areas they manage, whether in the north and east, Daraa district, Damascus rural areas, or Homs and Hama provinces. We believe it is impossible not because of the military superiority of the opposition forces or public support for the armed powers. It is basically because the regime lost Political dominance over the land. As a probable solution, Bashar Assad can be allowed to rule those areas in local peace conditions and under the voluntary agreement from the “gray” public crowd in the liberated areas.
Our research refers to the public crowds that find the political speech of many armed forces in their areas contain huge risks that do not express them politically. On the contrary, it creates lots of fear for them. However, they do not see the regime as a better solution. The hostility towards it is no less than the hostility towards the extremism of the armed jihadi groups. They know exactly what they do not want but they do not find any practical exit they want in the popular political speech.
As the state structure continues dissolving and falling, we can say there are features of the central authority only in the employees’ salary system which value keeps going down. Its performance by the state dropped down about 67% of the total salaries, according to the latest information we had.
The general living situations also continued to go down. The state of chaos has widely spread on the sides of demarcation lines. Princes and rich men of war appeared in the conflict to contribute in creating more chaos by trying to control the areas which are under their control, plus making huge fortunes through kidnapping, bullying, ect..
The regime’s violence has kept growing while the extremist groups entered the liberated areas to fill the gap caused by the absence of the state and the armed moderate powers. Therefore, the feelings of hatred and sectarian indignation started to increase. Those feelings did not have clear consequences and the genocides and sectarian crimes were limited. Nonetheless, we believe there are serious risks in case things get out of control after the state’s complete collapse without providing any alternative force to fill the gap.
• Areas under the rule of the uprising powers: (Idlib rural areas, Eastern part of Aleppo and its rural areas, east and north eastern areas, Daraa)
Those areas are free from the regime’s political authority and proportionally out of its repressive devices range. However, many of them still depend on basic services provided by the state machinery through water and electricity.
The regime continued paying salaries for certain categories of employees in the liberated areas to keep those areas out of the actual involvement in the uprising. An important part of its interests is still under the hands of the regime. The employees still need to receive their monthly salaries from the other areas controlled by the regime, where they are exposed to different kinds of blackmail and accountability.
The increasing economic difficulties, the Friends of Syria Group’s hesitation in having a clear policy towards the crisis, the continuous disagreements between the regional groups in supporting certain groups only, the loose situation inside, and the breakdown of the community general security have allowed Islamic extremist groups enter the country. They were capable of occupying some positions on land due to the enormous lack of training and sources for moderate armed forces. The situation also allowed extremist Islamic forces, especially the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Jabhat al-Nusra, to take over some facilities and resources in some areas. They also carried out criminal acts like murders, lootings, captivities, and assaults against who oppose their authority.
Therefore, empowering the moderate military forces, civil powers, and administrations is the main link which would permit the liberated areas to go out of the current dilemma. The future is highly related to the gambles in the strategic context of a full support of the public battle.
The general situation in Aleppo (Summary of field studies):
Aleppo with its eastern and western parts, the liberated and the controlled by the regime, lives in a severe living and economic crisis. The continuous shelling makes it harder for the people there. While the Free Syrian Army’s shells are hitting only the areas near the frontlines, the regime carries out periodic raids against the liberated areas, in addition to the use of land rockets in some areas. The armed phenomenon widely spread in the liberated neighborhoods under the clear absence of the state associations or who represent them in the matters of managing people’s affairs.
For example, in the Bostan Al-Qasr neighborhood, which is controlled by different battalions, the electricity goes out for most hours every day, whereas water arrives for only few hours. The shells sound is always present, whether they are randomly aimed by the regime or the Free Army at the demarcation lines with the regime, where neighborhoods under the regime’s rule are located. Meanwhile, people go repeatedly into fights for bread for a few minutes each day to have their daily needs.
In spite of all those circumstances, the civil movement appears as a struggle form. Many civil movements and groups organized by the ones who preferred staying to leaving. They decided to take care of the services and relief fields since relief committees and help organizations are absent there. What is more, some towns in Qamishly are witnessing some leisure and sports activities, especially within the growing feeling of not having laws prohibiting the civil work or references which monopolize such activities as previously.
In the same context, the civil work faces a lot of challenges due to the ruling forces or the nature of the conflict. In a town like Amuda which showed a huge involvement in the uprising, the PKK tries to impose its authority. This matter distracts the people from the importance of the civil work or perhaps it is a refusal for monopoly’s return to public life.
Many activists in the northern and east northern areas went out in training courses on the civil work. Nonetheless, those courses represent a chance for leaving the place without return in most times. Despite of this, the civil movement started to witness a state of variation more than before. It has become more specialized, such as education, and violations documentation, and the revival of social solidarity through some public initiatives.
Division is the common and dominating trait of the civil work. In some cities, there are two local councils, and in in each council there are disagreements. The efforts for unification go through many difficulties. The most important one is the involvement of different armed powers in making decisions, in addition to the influence of the foreign financial supporters and the carelessness of uniting the councils.
Generally, it seems that the workers on the civil and administrative levels are waiting for something to happen in the future. They believe the future holds the solution for them although they do not know the details. Some believe that the regime or at least the leader would fall. When it happens, a new government would be formed and it would impose its authority over all areas and manage them. At this point, there is a question whether the return of the regime is one of the ambiguous possibilities they are waiting for in the future. Most residents refuse this thought and believe that the bond between them and the regime is gone and it would never return. Meanwhile, some, particularly who work in the government sector, think it is still probable.
Some activists and workers in the civil field realize the deep problem and importance of public support. They try to develop their work, activities, and strategies to strengthen relations with the community. Others do not realize or refuse this challenge. They refuse the idea of letting the forces that were not previously involved in the revolution participate in the tasks of managing the liberated areas. Working on strengthening public support needs guidance and political support in order to become a common orientation accomplishing the desired results and goals.
• On the military level
Resentment towards the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is increasing, whether by the civilians or other military formations like the Free Army. It is clear that this situation is heading gradually to a collision. The Islamic State is dealing strictly with the local community and activists. It is hostile to a large number of battalions as well, accuses them of disbelief, and refuses to cooperate with them.
Jabhat al-Nusra has a different situation, particularly in the areas where a big number of its fighters are Syrians from the areas themselves. The people there feel more comfortable with them than with the Islamic State. Additionally, they admire their courage, discipline, and avoidance from robberies. People started to distinguish unmistakably the organizations of the Islamic State of Iraq from the Levant and Jabhat al-Nusra.
There are many military formations led by civilians or military men. The civil leaders are brave, while people admit the failure of those leaders in military planning for battles. They are only good at attacks and fighting only.
Foreign military aids arrived for battalions and brigades. It is very important to mention those aids recently arrived from the outside and they were accurately divided between the beneficiaries. Forces Commands were not only medium to transfer the aids to the battalions and brigades and deliver to each according to the shares.
Rearranging loyalties and connections between the fighting battalions is a common matter. A battalion creates a bigger one so it can protect itself against other battalion, demand for ammunition and gear, or relocated with another brigade or battalions, depending on the surrounding circumstances. When a certain leader dies, his group mostly scatters and the fighters part to join other battalions. Low salaries or not having salaries is one of the main reasons that make the leader lose power on his elements. It makes obedience and discipline among elements disappear, in addition to the fact they are civilians who are away from military discipline and attitude which an individual gains when joining the army.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the Islamic movement, is one of the groups that try to develop a political and civil program besides its own military program. It attracts a number of the young religious men who prefer being away from any jihadi groups to avoid the community’s negative opinion or even to avoid future problems if they decide to travel outside of Syria.
At the beginning of August 2013, the regime withdrew some of its centered forces in the rural areas of Idlib. It sent them to the coast to support its forces in their battle with opposition fighters after the fights there became tenser.
In Aleppo, progress is still slow on various frontlines in a general state of obstinacy. They run out from one building to another within a few days. If the Syrian army was able to push the Free Army into going back 2 streets away, they would be there for months. The Free Army tactics depend on hitting the area they intend to break in using a small number of shells. That would make people emigrate and reduce the number of victims in the moment of breaking in. when the Free Army guarantees a large number of residents to be emigrated or be displaced, they break into the area and hit it violently.
One of the reasons behind the current military obstinacy in Aleppo is the developing fighting skills of the official army in street wars. It is currently noticeable that if the soldiers can build impervious barricades and develop their tactics to fit street wars. At the same time, the rate of providing arms for the Free Army is less than last year, plus the spirits of the moderate armed powers became low. Those factors created obstinacy in Aleppo.
On the field level, the Free Army was able to accomplish some victories lately, like in Khan Assal and blocking Khanaser path, which is the path for supplying the regime forces. Hence, the routes that provide the regime with supplies and arms are limited to the Difaa Factories road passing through Hama and Salamyeh.
As the serious support for the moderate forces is still absent, the role of the military men and dissidents in the Free Army is starting to decline in favor of civilian leaders. They do not have a true military experience in planning and fighting, which affects negatively on the power of the Free Army and its ability to go into battles, especially in Aleppo.
City of Raqqah:
On the military level, some combat battalions in the Free Army have been united in Raqqah. Division 11 was created and it includes a number of brigades, like Raqqah Rebels, Muntaser Billah, Raqqa deputues, Naser Salah Din. However, the unification operation has only included brigades that follow military formations available on the struggle map, like Ahfad Ar-rasool brigades. At this point, two kinds of military formations appeared in the Free Army. The first is the brigades that belong to certain areas and they are made up from the people from these areas. The second is the brigades in a number of cities and frontlines that refuse to go into similar operations to consolidation
The northern and east northern areas face increasing severity of the clashes between various factions. Those clashes reached their peak last month between YGP, People’s Protection Units, and Jabhat an-Nuṣrah after the Sri Kaneh incidents in Ras al-Ayn city, Al-Hasakah. Additionally, there was information passed by the media on the Kurdish constitution adapted by the Democratic Union Party or PYD and supporting parties and figures for this party. All these reasons led to unrest and violent clashes between the YPG forces, PYD military wing, and the Kurds Front Brigade from one side, and elements from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Jabhat an-Nusrah, and some of the Free Army battalions on the other side. Those clashes pushed thousands of Kurdish families to go to Iraq in the biggest exodus occurred in Syria since the beginning of the uprising. Some see the reason behind this huge number is that the Iraqi Kurdistan government opened Vichabour crossing which used to be closed. This allowed the Kurds of Syria to enter there. Some believe that Jabhat an-Nusrah killed some Kurdish Syrians in Syria. Others think that the reason is the lack of security and stability. Therefore, the Kurdish Syrians prefer immigrating to Iraqi Kurdistan, especially after the care and financial allocations provided by the government to take care of the displaced Kurdish emigrants. The Kurdish government has allocated the 25 million US Dollars to help the displaced Kurds from Syria.
After the Islamic State went far in using violence, some of the Free Army in Raqqah stood in their way. At this point, the Islamic State carried out a plan to eliminate the Free Army and control the city, as it stopped fighting at the regime frontlines.
In the terms of the international law, the producer and the user of the chemical weapons are the first to hold the responsibility of using the chemical weapons. While the Syrian leadership tries to deny its responsibility for ordering the chemical attack, it has been proven that chemical rockets and shells were aimed from position under the regime’s rule.
The previous review clarifies that the Syrian crisis is going through a more serious and complicated stage after the chemical weapon use in Ghouta, Damascus. Whether the American strike would happen or not, the crisis went out of the local parties’ control. The current state of obstinacy has become a burden on the regional situation. It caused regional forces and alliances to gradually gather around and distribute powers in the region, leaving Syria to become a huge burden for the international relations.
As we previously showed in our analysis of the probably attack scenarios, we can say a determined attack would be an exit for the US. The reason is it would reduce air and missile capabilities and the regime’s authority capabilities. Moreover, we believe the success elements cannot be completed without a great motivation, even if late, to support the moderate military forces and enforce it civil and administrative structure.
As we know, any military work is a field of positive and negative surprises. Additionally, there are factors that appeared due to the late attempts of solving the crisis during the past two and half years and the international society’s carelessness. We need to know that those factors are the main cause of the risks we see at present. Each day of the international society’s inactiveness would make it more difficult, costly, and expensive for the region and the world to deal with the crisis.
Orient Research Centre has previously presented many studies which show the spontaneous scenario of the Syrian matters. This scenario would create a black hole dragging the whole region with its elements and components. Syria would also become another Waziristan and cause war between its countries in the future.
Our center presented many researches that clarify that the continuous will illusion of the US, Friends of Syria Group, and the whole international society would open the path for the rising of the keenest powers that have a solid will. A war, in our opinion, is a clash of wills.