On December 6th, the Syrian central government announced it would be closing government offices for two days due to severe fuel shortages. Yesterday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (S.O.H.R.) reported that the streets of Aleppo, a government-controlled city and once the economic powerhouse of Syria, are empty of essential goods, diesel, gas, and petrol. Many factories and small businesses have closed their doors due to the city’s lack of working generators, the S.O.H.R. says, leaving many without work. The announcement of a fuel crisis sheds light on the dire socioeconomic situation overtaking Syria as the new year approaches.
Syria’s condition is undoubtedly due to the political and military actions associated with over a decade of war. The Syrian Observer reported in 2020 that the conflict had accrued almost $730 billion C.A.D in economic costs and destroyed 40% of Syria’s infrastructure. Petrochemical infrastructure, predominantly in the country’s east, accounted for a large portion of this destruction, which is reflected in World Bank reports showing a 60% shrink in the Syrian economy since the conflict began. The International Monetary Fund (I.M.F.) reported that, pre-2011, Syria’s oil sector accounted for 25% of its government’s annual revenue.
News agencies, think tanks, N.G.O.s, and intergovernmental organizations reporting on Syria all recognize the devastation resulting from the nation’s socioeconomic precarity. A peace process that can guarantee not only long-term cessation of violence but also Syrian re-integration into the global economy is essential to alleviate these hardships.
Despite this, the conflict’s parties have demonstrated little motivation to take concrete steps to address the deteriorating economic situation. Peace talks seem to have been forgotten in favor of national interests. Turkey appears to be preparing to launch a military ground campaign against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces. American forces continue to strike at military targets in Syria in line with their counter-terrorism policy. Russia is rumoured to be rotating troops back into Syria, redeploying them to strategically critical areas such as their naval base at Tartus and air force base at Hemeimeem.
All of these steps are being taken to protect the interests of each individual nation, which makes them tricky to criticize objectively. However, each contributes to the greater militarization of Syria, fueling the possibility of more significant conflict – which Syria must desperately avoid. Militarization continually hampers N.G.O.s, the U.N., and the Syrian government in their attempts to restore the mechanisms required to deliver essential goods to civilians. In the words of U.N. envoy to Syria Geir Pederson, the last thing that Syria needs is more fighting.
The lamentable reality is that the realpolitik and geopolitical interests of regional and global actors are taking priority over Syria’s unfolding humanitarian disaster. Those involved in the conflict must recommit to the inclusive Geneva-based peace process with a new level of sincerity and vigor if the country’s outlook is to improve.
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