December 20, 2017, Granma – Elson Concepción Pérez
Although a victory may appear at hand, the reality is that another war is only just beginning in Syria, a war to rebuild the country.
Shots are still being fired and missiles launched. There are remote areas where terrorists remain entrenched, and cells in cities that will not allow the country to be declared free of these elements. And perhaps most seriously, a so-called opposition, closely liked to armed groups like Al Nusra, continues to insist they will only lay down their weapons when President Bashar al Assad is removed.
In the meantime, patience is running out in Geneva, where fatigue is the only result of the 11 rounds of UN-sponsored talks held there between the government and the opposition. The flexibility of the government’s negotiators faces the absurd pretensions of the opposition to overthrow Assad.
Seven years of war in Syria have cost between 300,000 and 400,000 human lives, more than a third of these civilian. Some five million Syrians have been obliged to abandon the nation, while another 6.5 million are displaced. Life expectancy has fallen to 55.7 years, from an average of 75.9 in 2011.
Estimated material damages caused by the bombings surpass 200 billion euros, according to the World Bank, cited by the Spanish newspaper El País, which additionally reports that the country’s two principal revenue sources have fallen dramatically: gas and oil production by 93%, and agriculture 40%.
Twenty-seven percent of urban housing has been totally or partially destroyed, along with 50% of all healthcare centers, and 43% of schools.
As of early December, UNICEF reported that more than a million Syrian children have no school to attend.
This is today’s Syria, as 2018 approaches, with the people still resisting internal and external enemies, while the West remains largely silent, opting for economic sanctions as another means to force their interests on the nation.
The panorama is sobering. It is said that in the city of Aleppo alone, there are 14.9 million tons of rubble to be removed. The ancient marketplace in the city center, over 3,000 years old, has been 70% destroyed.
Several studies have been conducted to estimate the cost of rebuilding the country. The United Nations and World Bank indicate that it could take more than 100 billion USD, while local analysts say the cost could be as high as 400 billion.
UN agencies estimate that 30 years may be required to return the Syrian economy to its 2011 level.
Several western governments have conditioned any possible contribution on the removal of President Assad.
Add to this the sanctions imposed by the United States and some European nations, which create major obstacles to recovery efforts.
In the case of the U.S. which has been directly involved in the war against Syria, supplying arms and money to opposition groups, it is not likely that much will be contributed, despite the fact that the international community has recently learned that weapons of U.S. and Israeli origin have been found in the area of Al-Mayadeen. In Palmira and Aleppo, as well, very sophisticated weaponry from these countries has been discovered.
It is worthwhile recalling the experience of Iraq – a country that was invaded and savagely bombed by U.S. forces. Funds for the nation’s reconstruction were awarded to U.S. corporations, which stole significant sums, creating an international scandal.
A U.S. Congressional committee estimated that from a total of 160 billion dollars allocated, these companies contracted by the government made off with between 31 and 61 billion, and worse, Iraq has yet to be rebuilt.
Syria, close to a victory over terrorist forces, now faces a new war, this time to rebuild the country, rising from the ruins and making life possible for the millions of people who live there, and for the more than five million refugees who have left their homeland, fleeing death.