Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, appears to have won the war, but the country he will lead lies in ruins.
Nor can he count on a lot of help from an international community largely made up of state governments who were itching for his defeat, as they had been for the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and President Saddam Hussein before him.
‘The war continues, but in a broad, strategic sense, he’s defeated those who wanted to dispose of him,’ said Syria expert, Aron Lund, at the Thinking Century Foundation to the AFP News Agency.
Even in the United Nations Headquarters in New York, they had to admit that Assad is the sitting president. Recently, Syria’s envoy, Staffan de Mistura, took the gag from his mouth and asked Assad’s opponents (most of whom were not Syrian, but from neighbouring lands, who were attempting to invade the country) to realise that they have lost the military conflict and called for a more pragmatic attitude.
‘Will the opposition be sufficiently comprehensive, and realistic, to realize that they didn’t win the war?’ asked Mistura.
The statement was taken very badly by the Syrian opposition, who have long called for Assad’s departure in order for them to participate in a Syrian ‘Transitional Government’. ‘Shocking and disappointing,’ was Nasr al-Hariri’s reaction, who has been the opposition’s chief negotiator at the failed, UN-led negotiations in Geneva.
But if the war is to end, Assad’s disappearance seems increasingly unrealistic. Syrian state forces now control the country’s most important cities, and have far greater military impact than their opponents, thanks to the support they have received from Russia, and Iran.
Over the past two weeks, Syrian government forces have secured important new areas in the east of the country. In the city of Deir al-Zor, the army have managed to break the Islamic State’s (IS’s) positions around two enclaves where the civilian
population have been besieged since 2014.
The Syrian government’s forces now has control over half of Syria’s territory, where two thirds of the population live, according to Syria expert, Fabrice Balanche.
The rest of the country is divided between Kurdish forces (23%), IS (15%), and internationally backed ‘rebels’ (the majority of whom are not Syrian, so perhaps ‘rebels’ is a sympathetic term for them – 12%), according to Balanche.
But despite the fact that Assad’s forces have been able to gain control of ever-increasing areas, the regime will face armed resistance for many years to come, said Thomas Pierret, a Syrian researcher at the University of Edinburgh.
‘Assad will remain in power for a long time, but there is a high probability that there will be armed insurgency. They don’t want to be a direct threat to the central government, but they will pose a structural threat to a regime with major weaknesses,’ said Pierret to AFP.
Assad also faces great challenges in rebuilding a country that has been ravaged during the war, which has raged for over six-years,has costs at least 330,000 human lives, and has driven millions of people away from the country. In large parts of the country, the infrastructure has been laid waste.
’Assad’s definitely gained back power, and won areas back, but frankly, he’s regained control of a country that is completely destroyed. I don’t know what it really means to win a war in such a situation’, said Maha Yahya, a researcher at the Middle East
Section of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace organisation in Beirut.
According to the World Bank, the Syrian war has cost the country’s economy $226 billion, which is four times the amount of its gross domestic product in 2010. The fighting has destroyed 27% of homes, and approximately half of all health, and education, institutions.
Approximately 85% of the population live below the poverty line, and half are unemployed.
Few will help Assad
‘In the current situation, I don’t think there will be any reconstruction of the country,’ said Jihad Yazigi, editor of the Syria Report website.
He believes there will be some economic improvements over the next two years, as the power grid is being repaired, and the country’s oil and gas plants are again put into operation. But there isn’t money for more extensive reconstruction, as it’s assumed that Syria’s twelve banks only hold values of $3.5 billion.
And Assad won’t be able to count on special help from international lenders, and institutions, as the regime is accused of extensive assaults and war crimes (many of which have been disputed by international observers), Yazigi believes.
‘Those who could have financed this reconstruction, like the Gulf states, the EU, and the World Bank, have no plans to do that’, he stated.
© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today