Can we trust Bashar al Assad and his regime, which systematically destroyed the country over nearly three years, with the re-building of Syria? Thanks to Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, Bashar al Assad is staying on until at least the summer of 2014 under a dubious deal to dismantle and destroy al-Assad's stockpiles of chemicals and gases. Recent UN Human Rights reports stated that 11,420 children were killed in Syria between March 2011 and August 2013. Among them, 389 were killed by snipers, 764, executed and 100, tortured. Another UN report claimed that a growing body of evidence collected by UN investigators points to the responsibility of senior Syrian officials, including President Assad himself, in crimes against humanity and war crimes. So far the death toll in Syria's civil war has risen to at least 126,000. Yet the world is powerless to act because of the "Russia-US Deal to remove Syria's chemical stockpile".
The huge task of rebuilding Syria in future is going to be fraught with problems, hurdles and obstacles. The biggest problem is the tyrant Bashar al Assad himself. If he remains in power, the rebuilding would fail.
In Kuwait on Friday 6th December British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad must stand down to allow for any peaceful settlement to the 33-month-old conflict in his country. He said to a press conference:
"It is impossible to imagine after so many deaths, so much destruction, and a regime oppressing and murdering its own people on this scale" should remain in power Hague told a press conference.
In London on October 23rd CNN reported that Syrian opposition leaders and the "Friends of Syria" group agreed that planned peace talks in Geneva will aim to bring about a democratic transition for Syria in which President Bashar al-Assad plays no part. The US Secretary of State said: "We are clear that Syrian President Assad has no role in a peaceful and democratic Syria".
There we have it from the American horse's mouth; there is no role for al Assad in a peaceful democratic Syria. This can be translated to mean there is no role for Bashar al Assad in the rebuilding of Syria. It is inconceivable that Western donors and oil rich Arab countries will rush to make generous contributions for the rebuilding of Syria if Bashar al Assad is still in power.
A Plan must be in place:
Some would argue it is too early to talk about economic reconstruction of Syria whilst the civil war still rages on. I believe an economic rebuilding plan should be in place ready for implementation as soon as the conflict ends. Essential services must be restored and emergency programmes must be started to help during the transitional period.
The immediate challenge in Syria is dealing with the destruction and how to proceed. How to impose authority over all the militias who are fighting in Syria, and how to handle the humanitarian aspects to ensure the place is working again with law and order established and quickly. Breakdown of law and order is of real concern to the Syrian people.
The fabric of Syrian society is being torn apart under the pressure of escalating sectarian fighting. Over 50% of infrastructure has been destroyed. The longer the war continues, more infrastructure will be degraded.
The biggest challenge is how to contain the foreign jihadists and Islamic fighters whose ultimate objective is not a stable secular prosperous Syria, but a theocratic state applying the draconian Sharia Law on a population that does not want it. Amid the destruction, it is important for the transitional authority to consider how to piece back together the delicate ethnic and religious mosaic which was shattered by the violence. It is imperative that minorities are protected and must be included in the new political structure. The entire world would be watching.
A year ago it was estimated that the Syrian economy had lost 50 billion US dollars since the eruption of the protests in March 2011. Recent estimates put the loss at 100 billion US Dollars. Unemployment is above 70%. There are severe shortages in fuel and essential supplies. The agricultural sector has been decimated. One in three Syrians relies on relief aid to exist. Tourism has evaporated. Oil revenues dried up as the rebels have seized the biggest oil wells. In November 2013 rebels led by al Qaeda-linked fighters had seized Syria's largest oilfield, cutting off President Bashar al-Assad's access to almost all local crude reserves.
Last year Syrian official sources said that the war in Syria had cost its economy up to £60 billion and a more than a quarter of all homes have been destroyed or severely damaged. Recent estimates put the number of houses destroyed or severely damaged at 2 million. The true figures are much higher by now.
Syria's vicious civil war, in which the regime has relied on air power to crush the rebels, has destroyed infrastructure and residential areas. Even factories, workshops and hospitals have not been spared. Schools and mosques were targeted.
If reconstruction is to commence, the fighting must stop and Bashar al Assad must go.
Western sources estimate that 80 to 100 billion US dollars would be needed. An immense task that would require international effort involving the UN, the US, the EU and the Arab Gulf States. It is most unlikely that the Arab Gulf states, EU and the USA would be willing to provide tangible assistance if Bashar al Assad remains in power.
Learning from the Iraqi experience:
Poor Planning, lack of accurate information, unreliable data about costs and priorities are recipes for failure. Politically motivated policies based on ideological or religious grounds will not work as the Iraqi experience had shown. For example dismissing workers and dissolving the security apparatus can lead to chaos. The De-Baathification in Iraq which is the cleansing of the previous regime's employees, workers and worst of all the dismantling of the army and police forces was catastrophic. Iraq is still paying the price of such misguided policies. Ten years after the fall of the former Saddam regime, Iraq is still suffering from violence, shortages, corruption and poor public services.
In the final analysis, for reconstruction to commence, the conflict must end and the fighting must stop. The top priority is the removal of the regime which is responsible for the wholesale destruction of the country.
A regime that brought death and destruction to its own people and caused the displacement of millions of Syrian just to stay in power, does not deserve to take part in the rehabilitation of the devastated country.