In order to directly answer the question in the title of this article, it is necessary to examine the foundations and pillars of the regime upon which it relies for its governance. If those pillars were inherently civil, including aspects of the economy, society, political life, production of goods and services, laws, legislations, a vibrant economy, satisfactory social welfare, and economic, security, and political stability, then any disruption in these foundations could lead to a severe upheaval in the political system. This upheaval could in turn lead to the downfall of the ruling authority and usher in a replacement.
comprehensive military dictatorships that rely on brutal tools disconnected from civility or humanity establish their existence on the pillars of military and security forces, oppression, and fear
An inflation rate of 50%, an unemployment rate of 50%, or over 70% of the population falling below the poverty line, or any economic crisis, would oblige the authority to resign and retire from political activity. Consequently, the people would seek an alternative to alleviate their economic suffering. The shaking of civil foundations would civilly topple the political system, especially within a democratic atmosphere where the presence of political parties, that market themselves and expose the weaknesses of their political competitors in power, make it easier for them to overthrow ineffective leaders and manage the course of politics and the economy.
However, comprehensive military dictatorships that rely on brutal tools disconnected from civility or humanity establish their existence on the pillars of military and security forces, oppression, and fear. The civil aspect, meaning the economic aspect, is completely absent as a primary factor for their downfall.
Economic failures exert only slight pressure on rulers who have no regard for the welfare of the people and only communicate with them through official media channels
Economic failures exert only slight pressure on rulers who have no regard for the welfare of the people and only communicate with them through official media channels, cocooning themselves with security during field visits to prevent interaction with the population due to their fear of hearing the people voicing their complaints as a result of economic catastrophes.
In Syria’s current economic situation, poverty rates have reached 95%, unemployment rates 85%, and inflation rates have topped 3000%. Approximately 13 million Syrians, more than half of the population, have been forcibly displaced and more than a million have been killed. Nearly one million civilians have been imprisoned and killed under torture. The country has been divided into three zones of influence: Russian, American, and Turkish. There are 830 foreign military checkpoints in Syria (Iran alone has 520 military checkpoints).
As the civil foundations began to crack, the regime’s leadership began receiving Iranian support from the Revolutionary Guard and its sectarian militias in 2011. When the cracks in the regime’s foundations did not stop, Russia militarily intervened in 2015 to reinforce the pillars that were propping up the regime. This was meant to help the regime promote fear and terrorize the population at a time when it was starting to crumble, ultimately boosting Russian and Iranian military and security dominance.
Remittances from Syrians working abroad constitute economic support for thousands of families within the Russian influence zone (where Iran, the Assad regime, and its sectarian militias are present). However, the Alawite faction of the Assad regime on the Syrian coast, which forms the main human reservoir for its military, security, and militia-based foundations, has very few forcibly displaced or expatriate individuals, so economic pressures will greatly affect them. The economic pressure, leading to extreme inflation and poverty, will create cracks in this solid bloc.
These cracks might extend to their own military and security forces, who might seek revenge for their people’s economic oppression. This can be further fueled by the sense of class disparity within that bloc. The gross enrichment from corruption over half a century of control over the Syrian economy, along with trading in Captagon, drugs, weapons, looting, and selling artifacts to families like the Assad, Makhlouf, and Shalish families, sets them apart from the rest of the families. This has exacerbated class disparities within that bloc, which could lead to protests that may evolve into demonstrations, sit-ins, and acts of disobedience.
The democratic administration in the White House is still not serious about imposing economic sanctions. Instead, it granted an unnecessary exception to the regime following the earthquake, which does not prevent aid from entering, given that over 90% of international aid has been directed to the regime over the past decade
The influential economic nerve affecting the regime’s pillars – in the event that the United States is serious about implementing the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act and not just in rhetoric – lies in the actual destruction of the drug and Captagon industry within Syria, and its genuine containment using state-of-the-art electronic devices, drones, and satellites. This would prevent its production and export, thus stopping the world from being harmed by these toxins. It would dry up the main financial sources of the regime’s military support, potentially causing genuine fractures within that support base. Its key figures would face the economic pressures experienced by the rest of the population.
The democratic administration in the White House is still not serious about imposing economic sanctions. Instead, it granted an unnecessary exception to the regime following the earthquake, which does not prevent aid from entering, given that over 90% of international aid has been directed to the regime over the past decade. This is done to appease Iran in hopes of securing a nuclear deal, which is similar to previous efforts that were ultimately discarded by the Trump administration.
The UN relief provided to the regime strengthens its power’s financial foundations. Funds allocated for relief are transferred through the Syrian Central Bank, which is initially under sanctions, to attract offers from the Syrian market to the UN office in Damascus, under the regime’s control. The majority of relief tenders are awarded to individuals close to the regime without precise documentation of distribution.
According to experts from the “Observatory of Political and Economic Networks” (OPEN) in Canada and the “Syrian Legal Development Programme” (SLDP) in the UK, there are over a hundred partners of the United Nations in Syria. Between 2019 and 2020, about $140 million from UN procurement programs went to suppliers and service providers classified as regime loyalists. German newspaper Der Spiegel exposed the ways and mechanisms through which militia leaders and businessmen affiliated with the Syrian regime, like Fadi Saqer, Samer Fawaz, and Nizar al-Asaad, who are subject to sanctions, benefited from UN aid.
Unless Russia, Iran, or any state continues massive and sustained financial support to the Assad regime, it will have no choice but to print more currency, leading to rampant inflation, currency collapse, further economic deterioration, and increased pressure on the solid support base, the consequences of which are difficult to predict.
As long as Assad and his associates are there, they will continue building a financial empire at the expense of the suffering and blood of Syrians
Zimbabwe experienced hyperinflation that led it to add three zeros to its currency in 2003. In 2009, the Zimbabwean government added twelve zeros, making one trillion Zimbabwean dollars equal to one US dollar. Despite this, Mugabe clung to power until a military coup removed him.
Would some individuals within the regime’s support base do what the military did in Zimbabwe when they got rid of Mugabe?
It is clear that by ignoring political paths, the regime and its allies are determined to stay in power, no matter how temporarily. As long as Assad and his associates are there, they will continue building a financial empire at the expense of the suffering and blood of Syrians.
Therefore, the only practical solution for Syrians is to unify the country in two stages, starting with a scenario similar to West Germany’s unification. Unite the areas of American influence (northeast Syria) and Turkish influence (northwest Syria), and include Aleppo in both areas through a Turkish-mediated agreement. Only then can the north be rebuilt with the administration of a technocratic national government, dissolving all militias in the regions, forming a single national army under one defense ministry, dissolving the Self-Administration and the Rescue Government, and maintaining one technocratic government with a strong interior minister and defense minister, overseen by American and Turkish supervision.
Syrians are no less patriotic than Germans, and they do not need to wait for decades for a practical political solution
The technocratic government will be committed to the reunification of all Syrian territory, just as the West German government was, and will pay to restore it after Iran and Russia leave and Syria is freed from the grip of the Assad regime which was the cause of Syria’s current state. When the international situation changed and the Soviet Union collapsed, Germany demolished the Berlin Wall, and Germany was reunified. Syrians are no less patriotic than Germans, and they do not need to wait for decades for a practical political solution. Starting with this scenario will revitalize a “useful Syria” and offer a transitional solution for millions of Syrians, ending their suffering and presenting a successful economic and civilized model with international protection. In a favorable historic moment, the national government will regain the remaining parts of Syria after liberating it from the dictatorial regime, Russia, Iran, and their militias.