Opinion and Editorial

Arab nations should help rebuild Syria

Christiane Waked
Filed on November 6, 2020

(Barney Low / Alamy Stock Photo)

Lebanon can offer a platform for companies and labour. It is rather easy for Syrian refugees to return to their country from Lebanon because of the geographical proximity

The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir O. Pedersen told the Security Council on October 27 that the Syrian government and the opposition could reconvene the Constitutional Committee in November, opening doors to a broader peace process.

The Syrian conflict that started almost a decade ago on March 15, 2011 has had a devastating impact on the country. The reconstruction process could cost Syria as much as $400 billion, as per the estimates of the United Nations. A third of the housing stock in Syria has been destroyed or damaged. Almost 83 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line. More than two-thirds of Syrians have had to leave their homes: 5.6 million are refugees outside the country and 6.5 million are internally displaced.

Today, the Syrian government has regained possession of over 70 per cent of the territory and as the Syrian conflict is nearing an end, the regime in Damascus is preparing major reconstruction contracts for the country.

However, the Syrian business network that is close to Assad regime is now in full reconfiguration and names like Rami Makhlouf or Fares Al Shihabi no longer are associated with the reconstruction process.

An article published on September 16, 2020, by French intelligence website, Intelligence Online, noted how some new Syrian businessmen are interfering at the highest level. These names include, Samer Foz, Nader Kalai, Nazir Jamal Eddine, and even Houssam Qaterji. The latter will have to reckon with the powerful clan led by Syrian first lady, Asma Al Assad, Tarif Akhras or Mohammed Al Dabbagh, who is himself in competition with the sphere of power of Maher Al Assad and his bankers, Mohammed Hamcho and Ghassan Ali Bilal.

All these Syrian businessmen are handpicked by the Syrian presidency. How will post-conflict Syria emerge is anyone’s guess, but the contours of the reconstruction plan of Syria is being compared to the Beirut Solidere model that helped rebuilt the Lebanese capital in the nineties after 15 years of civil war.

Syria cannot rebuilt the country by itself especially since many Syrian businessmen are under scrutiny and exposed by the Caesar Act, the new US sanction against the Assad regime. Since its main ally Russia does not have the means to rebuild Syria, the task of reconstruction lies in the hands of Arab countries.

Arab countries will try to keep Turkey — ally of the Muslim brotherhood and financial supporter of other Islamist factions — at bay. It will not be allowed to have a say in Syria or benefit from the process of reconstruction especially after its direct interference in the war. Actually any country that was responsible for the bloodshed and destruction in Syria should be excluded.

Syria’s reconstruction could serve as a life buoy for Lebanon especially in a scenario where refugees want to return to their homeland. Around two million refugees live in Lebanon

Lebanon has a central role to play in its ability to offer a platform for companies and labour. It is rather easy for Syrian refugees to return to their country from Lebanon because of the geographical proximity. Lebanon is connected to Syria by roads and also has a maritime route through ports of Tripoli and Beirut. In addition, Lebanon has sufficient knowledge and experience in several sectors and contributes to the Syrian education and health sectors.

While the war is not over yet and no city is immune to attacks, everyone agrees that it is necessary to start the process of reconstruction.

It is time that Syria reconciles and rebuilds itself, and allow all Syrians to live together in peace and harmony.

Christiane Waked is a political analyst based in Beirut

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