Sophie Mangal explores potential ways for Syria to start rebuilding its economy, with the help of some neighbours
Investigative correspondent at Inside Syria Media Center
Last Monday, the EU Council extended its restrictive measures against the Syrian government by a year, until June 1, 2018. The event occurred against the backdrop of the latest Syrian Arab Army’s success and the consequent birth of a weak hope for the end of the conflict in Syria. It seems that we shouldn’t wait for the conflict to be resolved, or the sanctions to be lifted. However, it is now time for Syrians to really think about the restoration and post-war development of the country.
Here we must not only talk about food supplies, deliveries of clothes and basic necessities provided entirely free of charge, but also about the development of trade and economic ties between states. What are the possible ways of restoring the Syrian economy at this stage, today?
The Iranian way
Not long ago, at a meeting held in Damascus between Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis and Iranian ambassador to the country Javad Torkabadi, bilateral relations in various fields, including the sphere of economy, were discussed. Khamis made it clear that Syria needs to overcome the full-scale economic war unleashed against the country by Western states and their accomplices in the Middle East. In turn, the Iranian ambassador confirmed that relations between Tehran and Damascus have become a model of strategic cooperation between the countries. He probably even indicated to his colleague that Syria can rely on Iran economically. Iran has accumulated vast experience in countering ‘sanctions wars’ which it would not hurt Syria to adopt. However, economic ties between Iran and Syria on their own will not solve the problem of the Syrian economy.
A Qatari scheme
Given the situation in Qatar, considering Qatari investment in the Syrian economy it seems quite a promising option. It would, however, be necessary to create some political tools to settle the conflict and to stimulate investors from Doha first. The possibility of providing certain zones of influence or certain economic niches to Qatar could also contribute to the cardinal turn of Doha towards Damascus.
Qatar is largely responsible for what is happening in Syria, and this issue is being actively discussed now in business circles around the world. It would be fitting for Qatar, in addition to Syria’s allies, to use its financial capabilities to boost the Syrian economy. It’s time for Qatar to address Syria directly, to offer them something similar to the Marshall Plan in order to ensure economic stability. It would calm the economic situation in the post-war period and could bring profit to Qatar in the future. Such a policy would prevent Qatar from becoming Number One Outcast in the region and being held responsible for all evils committed by radicals on Syrian soil, especially as the strategy of dismembering Syria seems to be in limbo for the sixth year and proved ineffective. But these are not all the the mutual benefits of cooperation with Syria: in general, a policy like this would undoubtedly strengthen the position of Doha in the Islamic world, allowing them to bypass the Saudi barrier and providing a new source of potential revenue. Finally, cooperation with Syria would make it possible to become more independent of the U.S. and the EU. In fact, Doha has its hands untied, because relations with competitors have been spoiled by diplomatic scheming and Turkish pipelines. All that remains is to come to agreement with Iran on the purchase of some LNG from Qatar for onward transport to external consumers. Iran is now getting closer to Qatar and has strong positions in Syria, so it may prove an excellent intermediary.
Economic ties are the main guarantee of success
Despite the ongoing fighting in Syria, the country’s economy moves on. Whilst eliminating sources of instability, terror and the break-up of the state, a number of countries could really assist Syria economically. Syria is rich in energy resources and minerals, including rare-earth metals. At the same time, the country has an advantageous geographical location. Many potential ways of transporting goods to the Mediterranean pass through its territory. All this shows that Damascus can develop rapidly and may reach a new economic level in a relatively short period of time.
Stability in the region and the development of trade and economic ties would allow the Syrians to have a source of stable foreign direct investment. The country has been in the grip of war for more than six years, but is full of enthusiasm to rebuild the economy. The hope of a new life and the Syrian Arab Army delivering battlefield successes inspire optimism on the part of Syrian citizens as well as the support of such countries as Iran, China, India, Russia and Armenia. Qatar could join this friendship if it realized the considerable mutual benefits to gain from a collaborative effort and counted the losses from the economic boycott declared to the Emirates by its ‘friendly’ neighbours. According to recent Reuters reports, for example, Qatar has already shut down its plants producing inert gas in this regard.
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