Publié le par Mahi Ahmed

Les visiteurs du blog trouveront ci-dessous quelques articles récents  du Think Tank américain: Council on Foreign Relations( CFR) sur la Syrie .Ces articles sont utiles à lire pour comprendre les objectifs stratégiques et les capacités de désinformation (via leurs expert)s des USA dans le traitement de la crise syrienne.

Ce sont les articles suivants :

1) The Winners and Losers of Syria's Civil War

2)  The Syrian Economy: Hanging by a Thread


1)The Winners and Losers of Syria's Civil War 

And how the United States can still come out ahead.



Ask any intelligence analyst, policy planner, or public policy wonk -- it's really hard to see trees, the forest, or anything else for that matter when you're in the eye of the hurricane.


We're already deep into Last Chance 3.0 for Bashar al-Assad's regime, but the arc of its demise is still likely to take more twists and turns before the story ends. Most difficult to divine -- and upon which so much of the future hinges -- is who or what will emerge to rule in Damascus when the dust finally settles. Indeed, the bulk of the so-called silent majority of Syrians -- Sunnis and Alawites alike responsible for Assad's longevity -- have not been spoken for.

Still, here's a preliminary scorecard of who is likely to come out on top, ahead, behind, or underground.

Biggest Losers

1. Bashar and the Assads: Bashar's DNA doomed him. Forget the trope of the modern man who was going to reform Syria. There was no way that growing up in a family whose nurture/nature meld was a cross between the Sopranos and the Corleones could have turned out any other way. Whether he's shot crawling out of drainpipe like Qaddafi (unlikely), tried like Milosevic in the Hague (more unlikely), spends his life living in a dacha on the Moskva (getting warmer), or manages for a time to seek refuge in Alawistan, the end of the line is approaching. In this region, the only regimes that can be handed down generation after generation are the authoritarian kingly dynasties, never the brittle republics run by secular strongmen. Bashar is done; stick a fork in him. In the respect and legacy department, he's going to make Rodney Dangerfield look good.

2. Alawites: Think post-Saddam Iraq without the American intervention. Another empowered minority (12-13 percent of the population) is about to become an aggrieved minority. Reconciliation and inclusiveness would be great in the new Syria. Sadly, there will be a lot of pressure to look back not forward, to settle scores, and to get even. With enough outside help, Syria may be lucky enough to avoid the worst kind of sectarian score-settling. This would likely require an international stabilization force, a great deal of money, and an enlightened policy on the part of big brother Arabs, particularly the Saudis and the Turks. Still, the biggest losers will be Alawites who benefitted from the regime's largess and who are likely to end up poorer and less secure as the rising Sunnis divide the pie amongst themselves. Syria is in for an abrupt redistribution of economic and political power. And no one will feel this more forcefully than the Alawites, particularly if the Baath Party is disbanded or criminalized and Alawite military elites are prosecuted or stripped of command.

3.Christians: This won't be a happy outcome for Christians, either. Assad's departure could remove two important safeguards for Syria's Christian community (roughly 10 percent of the population). First, as long as they remained in power, Alawites had a stake in legitimizing their own minority status by protecting fellow minorities. Second, the stability -- false as it was -- that the Assads guaranteed made minority status fairly secure as long as such groups did not challenge the regime.

As the Syrian system collapses, the only certainty is that Sunnis will dominate the new order. And if the state secularism that the Assads promoted evaporates, the Christians, particularly those who have cooperated closely with the regime, could find themselves increasingly marginalized in a more traditionally Sunni land.

4.Hezbollah: Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Lebanon's Hezbollah, has been whistling past the graveyard lately in his support for Assad. Hezbollah will survive Assad's fall -- the organization is an authentic and dominant player in Lebanese politics, not some kind of remote-controlled proxy -- but one of its two strongest patrons is about to be replaced by a Sunni (and most likely hostile) regime. To be sure, Iran is the group's more important partner. But Syria -- even while there were tensions with Hezbollah over the years -- has been a faithful guarantor of weapons, intelligence, and muscle inside Lebanon. It has also provided some, though not much, deterrence against Israel. With Syria offline, it remains an open question whether Hezbollah could mount as forceful a response to external aggression -- from Iran, Israel, or the United States -- as it could have in the past.

5. Iran: The Iranians will survive this one too, but they will lose a strategic card. The Iranian-Syrian alliance has lasted for almost 40 years because it is mutually beneficial and because the two are not ideological competitors. The fall of Assad will upset this balance. If a Saudi Arabian-backed Sunni regime emerges in Damascus, Iran will fear being encircled and the "Shiite crescent" will be much less threatening. Iran's window into Lebanon and the Arab-Israeli conflict will also close. All of these developments will only augment Iran's sense of insecurity and vulnerability. It may well lead to an even more determined effort to develop a nuclear weapon.

6. Iraq:The Shiite government of Nuri al-Maliki also has reason to fear Assad's ouster-- and it is likely that Iraqi-Syrian ties will be further strained. Iraqi Sunnis and Kurds will feel empowered by the rise of their brethren across the border in Syria and they will likely try to use that momentum to improve their own status at home. Syrian Kurds have already been coordinating with those in Iraq and taking refuge there as well. Should Kurds carve out their own autonomous entity within Syria, tensions will inevitably mount with both Iraq and Turkey.

7. Russia:Regardless of what happens in Syria, Russia will no longer enjoy the privileged position it once did. Syrians will not forget Moscow's support for the Assads, which included military and financial aid, and the emergence of a Sunni regime -- of whatever stripe -- will be at odds with Vladimir Putin's own aversion to Saudi-backed Islamists in Chechnya and the north Caucasus. If Assad does, in fact, try to create an Alawite statelet, and the Russians try to back it, matters will only get worse for Moscow. Among the great powers, there are no heroes in the Syrian saga -- that goes for the United States, too. But the Russians will occupy a place of pride in the rogues' gallery, together with Iran.

Big Winners: Are There Any?

Right now, it's much easier to identify the losers in the Syrian story than the winners. Events over the past 18 months seem to have shaped the fate of the unlucky with more certainty than that of the putative winners. I'd like to put the Syrian people at the top of the winner's list. After all, a brutal, thuggish, extractive regime is coming down and that shouldn't be a bad thing.

If the arc is long enough, Syria will be in for better days. Syrian civil society has shown a remarkable degree of resilience, willingness to cooperate, and ability to mobilize in the face of ongoing horrors. Still, should post-Assad Syria be dominated by an exclusivist Sunni regime influenced even to a small degree by fundamentalist leanings and without the will or capacity to accommodate the needs of a full third of Syria's people, the story could be much darker.

What we have right now is a group of wannabe winners, most with serious asterisks. Indeed, there's not yet a slam-dunk, jackpot winner among them.

1. Lebanon:The good news is that the end of the Assads could mean a lifting of the jackboot that has been on Lebanon's throat for a very long time now. Even with the formal withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon in 2005, Damascus continued to meddle in Lebanese politics through its proxies, often with deadly effect. The fall of the Assads will also weaken Hezbollah.

The bad news is that an unstable Syria will continue to spill over into Lebanon, potentially stirring the pot of conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. Indeed, Syria's traditional fear that Lebanon will become a breeding ground for coup plotting and conspiring with the Israelis will only increase. Ultimately, much will turn on whether or not Lebanon can take advantage of its newfound maneuvering space and forge more unity within its own ranks.

2. The Kurds: Syria's ethnic minorities may fare better than its religious ones. Syria's Kurds (roughly 9 percent of the population) are Sunnis and will be looking for increased recognition and perhaps autonomy. If cooler heads prevail in Turkey and among the Syrian opposition -- both of whom so far oppose that goal -- some kind of compromise might be reached. If not, the Kurds who now dominate much of Syria's border with Turkey will be a source of tension and conflict within Syria and with Turkey, forging ties with Iraqi Kurds and the Kurdistan Workers Party, commonly known as the PKK. It wouldn't take much imagination to envision Turkish incursions into Syria to hit Kurdish separatists and break up cooperation between Turkish and Syrian Kurds.

3. Israel: The good news for the Israelis is that Iran and Hezbollah will be weakened by Assad's fall. The bad news is that like so much of the Arab Spring/ Winter, the impending transition brings with it enormous uncertainty. What will happen to the 1974 disengagement agreement, which has made the Golan Heights the quietest space in the Middle East? What about Syria's chemical-weapons stockpiles, the largest in the region? What about foreign jihadists or the character of the new Syrian government? Will Syria revert back to the kind of instability that plagued the country before the Assads came to power? Will its government be influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood as in Egypt? If Iran feels encircled by hostile Sunnis, how acutely will the Israelis perceive the same challenge?

4.Turkey: Ankara is going to have to get used to the new Syria after enjoying a remarkably positive run with the Assads. Depending on the character of the Sunni government in Damascus, the Turks -- as the region's leading non-Arab Sunni power -- could become quite close to the new Syrian government, enhancing both their political and economic influence. Yet cooperation is far from a foregone conclusion. The Kurdish problem, as well as tensions between Turkish Sunnis and their own Alevis (the Turkish name for Alawites, who make up 15 percent of the population), could spark serious tensions and even violence.

5. Saudi Arabia: For the Saudis, the fall of the Assads carries real advantages if they can influence the new Sunni regime that emerges. The visit of Manaf Tlass -- the son of the former Sunni minister of defense -- to Saudi Arabia was an intriguing indication of what the Saudis may be thinking. Whether an establishment regime figure like Tlass would be acceptable to Free Syrian Army elements on the ground is another matter. But Syria will need friendly, rich Arabs. For Riyadh, Syria has been part of the great game of blocking Iranian influence. And if they don't overplay their Sunni cards -- and encourage the new government in Damascus to be inclusive with Alawites and Christians -- the Saudis might actually steal a march on Tehran.

6. The United States: Unlike the other authoritarian regimes it dealt with over the years, the United States never got much out of the Assads in matters of peacemaking or strategic advantage. A brutally repressive regime without much redemptive quality is on its way out -- and good riddance. For now, the biggest gain will be a weakening of Iran. But there could be a downside as well if Tehran becomes even more determined to push ahead with its nuclear weapons program. Assuming America doesn't intervene militarily, some ground will also have been lost among Syrians who believe it should have done something. But this can be recouped if Washington can help coordinate the international effort to address Syria's post-Assad needs.

The United States is an inherently status quo power, but it has values and interests that also compel it to support change. Its reaction to so much of the so-called Arab Spring reflects that ambivalence and will continue to do so in the future; it will also limit American influence in Syria. Should a Sunni regime emerge that is Islamist in character or just unstable, Washington will have an adequately tough time finding its balance. Just look at Egypt, where the U.S. has a strong relationship with the military and a thirty-year-old aid program, and still not much leverage. In Syria, it has almost no advantages. Nor does Washington have the resources to lead a multi-billion dollar reconstruction effort. Indeed, the only way Washington can possibly play a major role is if Syria follows Egypt and Jordan and signs a peace treaty with Israel. But the odds of this happening are slim to none.

The United States has much to lose if Syria devolves into sectarian conflict or worse, fragments. It has much to gain if it doesn't. But we need to be real here: Despite all the planning and working groups, Washington doesn't have much influence to shape the outcome either way. And let's face it: The struggle for Syria is going to be long and painful. If Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya -- despite all of their failings and dysfunction -- represent the best of what we can expect, Syria could easily come to represent the worst. And if that comes to pass, the Syrian story will end badly for everyone.


2)The Syrian Economy: Hanging by a Thread

Samer Abboud Commentary, June 20, 2012

The sanctions imposed on Syria by the United States, the European Union, the League of Arab States, and a host of other countries are aggravating the already-negative domestic economic conditions that the political crisis in Syria has generated. So far, the regime has managed to avoid economic collapse and weather the pressure by increasingly relying on Russia, Iraq, and Iran to both absorb Syrian exports and provide financing for projects affected by the sanctions. Yet, though that external lifeline is providing some stability, the Syrian economy will not be saved from its downward spiral of contraction and volatility.

The Central Bank of Syria has responded by marshaling large portions of its reserves to stabilize the economy and address problems such as price increases, inflation, supply shortages, and exchange rate volatility. But the long-term viability of its measures are called into question as the sanctions hamper the regime’s ability to generate further revenues, not least by blocking oil exports. Here again, the role of friendly states has been crucial in helping to keep the country afloat.

The Sanctions Regime

The sanctions that impact Syria the most are those imposed by the League of Arab States and the European Union. Their sanctions mainly target sources of government revenue by prohibiting transactions with individuals, companies, and state-owned institutions tied to the regime. For example, the Arab League has maintained the economic boycott it decreed on November 27, 2011, which includes the freezing of Syrian government (and some individuals’) assets in Arab countries, the cessation of transactions with the central bank, a travel ban on a number of Syrian officials, and the termination of all investments supported by Arab governments. The member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council have also banned civil aviation from flying to or from Syria.

The EU sanctions mirror those of the League, but include banning imports of Syrian oil, a measure unnecessary under the Arab League sanctions since Syria exports all of its oil to Turkey and European countries. U.S. sanctions are equally restrictive but have had a much less negative impact because of the already-limited economic relations between the United States and Syria.

Oil and Public Revenues

The Syrian oil sector has been hardest hit by the sanctions. Prior to the uprising, more than 90 percent of Syrian oil exports were to EU countries, with the remaining going to Turkey. Oil (and gas) revenues constituted around 20 percent of total gross domestic product and 25 percent of total government revenue. The banning of Syrian oil imports has forced Syrtol, the state oil company, to find new markets. This has proven difficult, as Indian refineries that expressed interest in importing Syrian crude could not secure private or public insurance for shipments.

To date, Syrtol has not been able to find markets for Syrian crude sufficient to compensate for the loss of exports to the EU. Sanctions on Syrian oil are estimated to have cost the government $4 billion in lost revenues, leading to a severe foreign currency crisis that has hampered the ability of the central bank to intervene in the economy.

The termination of official Arab investment in Syria—Qatar alone is estimated to have halted $6 billion in commercial investments—has forced the Syrian central bank to tap into its reserves to ensure the continuation of infrastructure and other important projects, such as those related to water and energy use. On their own, these reserves are insufficient to continue such large projects.

In light of this, various government ministries were recently tasked with identifying priority infrastructure projects that have been affected by sanctions and need external funding to continue. The result was the February 2012 negotiation of a comprehensive loan program with Russia, under which Moscow will provide Syria with up to $3 billion to help complete key projects.

Increases in import tariffs have been imposed to help offset some of the decline in oil revenues, but this has had a negligible impact: few people can afford non-necessity imported items under these economic conditions. Revenue from tourism has, predictably, dropped dramatically. For example, hotel occupancy rates have fallen from 90 percent before the crisis began to less than 15 percent in May 2012, reflecting the rapid decrease in incoming tourists. Because of this, around 40 percent of all employees in the tourism sector have lost their jobs since the beginning of the crisis. Some enterprises that were entirely dependent on tourism—whether large hotels or roadside businesses—have been forced to close because their source of income is drying up.

In the absence of revenues generated from oil, tourism, and trade, the Syrian economy will continue to contract. The regime has little hope of finding alternative revenue sources, whether domestic or external, and looks set to continue to rely on loans, grants, and trade support from allied states. In addition to Russian support, Iraqi leaders, for example, have publically dismissed the Arab League sanctions, and trade and gas pipeline deals between the two countries have even been signed. Iran, among other things, has taken measures to provide incentives for their importers to purchase Syrian products. Still, the economy struggles.

Currency Volatility and Its Impacts

The devaluation of the Syrian pound (SYP) has been consistent. The exchange rate was around 50 SYP to the U.S. dollar at the beginning of the uprising, but by February 2012, the value was cut in half, with the exchange rate reaching 74 SYP to the dollar. Since then, it has been as high as 85 to 90 SYP to the dollar on the black market. Currency exchangers have begun to hoard dollars, driving the exchange rate even higher.

The Syrian central bank is left with few options except to restrict withdrawals of foreign currency and to try and maintain a tolerable exchange rate that does not spiral into irreversible currency devaluation. While it has been denied by the central bank, there are rumors that the bank has begun to sell its precious metals assets, such as gold, to further shore up its foreign currency reserves to avoid collapse of the Syrian pound.

The devaluation has actually worked to the advantage of some exporters as the cost of Syrian products has decreased, thus making them more affordable for regional customers. This partly explains why the central bank has tolerated the devaluation, which, otherwise, has been extremely negative. In particular, the fluctuations have dramatically reduced the already-low purchasing power of average Syrians. An average public sector employee, for example, made around 12,500 SYP a month, or around $250, prior to the crisis. That same salary is now worth as little as $140, making basic household products increasingly unaffordable.

Average consumers suffer on two fronts: Reduced wages make increasingly higher-priced products inaccessible. Moreover, inflation is around 30 percent as of June 2012 and will likely continue to rise. Recently, the Syrian government released new banknotes into circulation to help finance the budget and to pay public sector salaries. Over the long term, this will only aggravate inflationary pressures and drive the cost of products even higher.

The Syrian central bank is caught in a dilemma: between the need to protect reserves and to marshal them toward stabilizing the economy. For example, in anticipation of the EU sanctions, the central bank withdrew most of its assets from European banks and either repatriated them or deposited them in euro or ruble accounts with the Russian Commercial Bank. However, although the central bank was able to shield most of its assets, it, along with other public banks, has acted to restrict loans and credit in an attempt to hoard reserves. This has ground activity in many areas of the economy to a halt, as reserves are being funneled into essential and major projects in infrastructure and energy at the expense of commercial or manufacturing projects.

The government has also taken measures to limit import spending exclusively to necessity items, such as food. These spending restrictions have caused severe supply problems in the industrial sectors of the economy that have especially hurt small- and medium-size enterprises. These enterprises often relied on public sector financing of supply imports, and with financing restricted to essential items, they have been forced to seek out personal or private loans. Predictably, these import issues, coupled with a trade embargo, have caused many businesses to experience major supply problems and have contributed to the rapid increase in the prices of basic products.

Energy Shortages

To a large degree, the rise in prices has been aggravated by energy shortage problems. The fiscal impact of the sanctions may be reduced public sector financing of imports, and thus a reduction in the number of goods entering the country and increases in the prices of ones that do. But energy shortages leading to increased energy costs are raising the price of producing and transporting domestic goods as well.

Syria has an acute problem with fuel access, as EU-based suppliers, in compliance with sanctions, have ceased all exports to the Syrian market. Since Syria does not have refinery capacities, it has to reimport its fuel from other countries. Prior to sanctions, it was heavily reliant on a Greek company, Naftomar, for domestic- and commercial-use fuel but has since had to look to allied countries to satisfy these energy demands.

Shortages of fuel and energy are common, and this has ripple effects throughout the economy. In agricultural areas, for example, shortages have prevented farmers from utilizing their tractors and other machinery, such as water pumps. Iran, Russia, and Venezuela have been providing Syria with fuel in recent months, but insufficiently to meet domestic demand. One reflection of this has been constant power cuts, even during the early period of the crisis. In response, the government has imposed a countrywide electricity-rationing program, cutting supply by at least three and a half hours per day throughout the country.

The energy shortages and increased energy costs are aggravated by price fluctuations in other areas of the economy. Price liberalization measures passed over the last decade mean that around 85 percent of all consumer products are subject to market pricing, with the remaining products subject to government-set price ceilings. However, these do not include all foods, and, as such, some essential products are being subject to speculation and price manipulations by merchants. For example, in April 2012, the government had to distribute sugar on the domestic market because merchants were selling it at more than four times its estimated value.

Such large price increases have become common in Syria. Inflation is rampant and reached an official year-on-year level of 11 percent in December 2011. But aside from the interventions described above, the government has been largely ineffectual in preventing such price fluctuations. Its role has been relegated to regularly issuing official price lists of key commodities. But, in the context of political crisis, sanctions, and currency volatility, these are largely ignored.

Help From Syria’s Allies

Russia and China have blocked attempts to impose sanctions through the United Nations, so the Syrian economy is not completely isolated. But it is increasingly dependent on a few countries to absorb its exports.

Between March 2011 and March 2012, Iraq, largely ignoring the Arab League sanctions, increased its imports from Syria by 40 percent, and Iran increased its imports by 100 percent. Russia has provided Syria materials and supplies for the production cycle, including steady shipments of diesel fuel that is used for everything from farm tractors to civilian transport trucks. And despite tensions with neighbors such as Turkey and Jordan, a considerable amount of informal cross-border trade and smuggling continues. Indeed, official trade with Jordan has actually increased since the imposition of the Arab embargo. All of this suggests some resiliency in the face of sanctions.

Decline but Not Collapse

The Syrian economy will continue to deteriorate for the foreseeable future under the impact of sanctions. Sanctions targeting individuals or official institutions have had the least impact, since the regime was able to protect its assets by repatriating them or moving them into Russian banks. But the stress on public revenues and the ensuing problems of dwindling foreign currency reserves and exchange rate fluctuation pose a more serious challenge.

In May 2012, there were serious supply problems with the delivery of Russian and Iranian fuel to Syria. Should the external lifeline wither or be disrupted, for example if the United Nations can agree on imposing international sanctions, then Syria’s economic isolation will increase sharply.

However, isolation does not mean that the collapse of the economy is imminent. In the short term, the regime can continue to weather the sanctions currently in place through reliance on its external allies. All major signs of collapse—a rapid devaluation of the currency, extremely high inflation, and acute supply shortages—have been avoided through the external injection of money and subsidized supplies into the Syrian economy.

But these are merely stopgap measures. They are insufficient to reverse deepening unemployment, the stagnation of economic activity, and food and supply shortages in the market. Nor can they prevent the progressive devaluation of the currency or the continuous erosion of the purchasing power of average Syrians. The external lifeline is critical in preventing economic collapse, but not enough to stop the economy’s slow, gradual decline.

Samer N. Abboud is an assistant professor of international studies at Arcadia University.




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