Syria’s economy has basically caved in. Among the scourges of war in the nation, the livelihood of everyday people has plummeted as they escape the forces that threaten their very life.
Economic studies by the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and independent economists paint a grim picture:
- Gross Domestic Product is now half of what it was three years ago, according to the IMF
- Oil production has effectively ground to a halt.
- Inflation is now at 50 percent
- Exports and imports are both reduced by 90 percent
- Unemployment is at 50 percent
While Bashar al-Assad is evidently an architect of Syria’s state of ruin, there are countless others to blame for the bellicose nature of Syria at present. One could blame dozens of other rebel/terrorist groups, the intervention of foreign countries like Russia, Iran and USA, neighboring countries etc.
As a result, only a fraction of the destruction caused in Syria is financed by him.
In spite of this, the amount of money he has to fund in order to keep his fragile position in the country totals to many billions.
- Russia– Russia has significant economic interests in Syria.
- Its investments in the country were valued at $19.4 billion in 2009, according to , and its exports to Syria were worth $1.1 billion in 2010.
- Moreover, Syria shares historic ties with the Soviet Union. Russia forgave Syria 75%, or $9.8 billion, of its $13.4 billion debt and became its main arms supplier.
- From 2000 to 2010, Russia sold around $1.5 billion worth of arms to Syria.
- Syria’s in 2011 and 2012 amounted to $687 million, according to the (SIPRI). But according to , Russia and Syria had in 2011 well over $4 billion in active arms contracts.
- In 2008, Syria agreed to purchase modern weapons including modern anti-tank and anti-air missile systems from Russia, including fighters, , , aircraft, and two submarines.
- Most of Syrian-Russian economic investments remain undisclosed. However, it is evident that Russia fuels a large part of Assad’s war for power. Russian firms invest considerably in the oil sector in Syria, giving Assad somewhat of a backdoor to controlling the Syrian economy.
- Russia has also established a naval facility in Tartus.
- Lastly, Russia protects the Assad regime extensively on the international stage. They have vetoed just about any action against Assad on the UNSC and defended the regime in any allegations on them, even the recent chemical attacks.
2. Iran– Iran remains a crucial neighbor and ally for the Assad regime, considering the general hostility of all other countries surrounding Syria.
- The Economist said that Iran had, by February 2012, sent the Syrian government $9 billion to help it withstand Western sanctions. It has also shipped fuel to the country and sent two warships to a Syrian port in a display of power and support.
- reported in May 2011 that the Iranian government was assisting the Syrian government with riot control equipment and intelligence monitoring techniques.
- In September 2012, Western intelligence officials stated that Iran had sent 150 senior members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to preserve the Assad government, and had also sent hundreds of tons of military equipment (among them guns, rockets, and shells) to the Assad government via an air corridor that Syria and Iran jointly established.
- Iran reportedly decided in June 2013 to send 4,000 troops to aid the Syrian government forces
- Citing two Lebanese sources, reported on October 1, 2015 that hundreds of Iranian troops arrived in Syria over the previous 10 days and would soon join Syrian government forces and their Lebanese allies in a major ground offensive backed by Russian air strikes.
- The reported on October 2, 2015 that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (the IRGC) has had some 7,000 IRGC members and Iranian paramilitary volunteers operating in Iran and was planning to expand its presence in the country through local fighters and proxies.
- The Journal also reported that some experts estimate 20,000 Shiite foreign fighters are on the ground, backed by both Shiite Iran and Hezbollah.
3. Assad’s own wealth– Bashar al-Assad’s own wealth and fortune are often underestimated. He has some deep pockets which have come a long way in supporting his war against rivals.
- The Syrian president, , has amassed up to $1.5bn (£950m) for his family and his close associates, according to analysts, despite moves in London, Switzerland and the US to freeze the assets of his regime.
- In peacetime, the Assads and their close friends owned around 60% to 70% of the country’s assets, from land and factories to energy plants and licences to sell foreign goods. But Assad would find it difficult to liquidate such assets in the event of his regime’s collapse.
- It is widely believed that his friends and family own much more leading to an undisclosed oligarchy in the regime which provides Assad deep control to the economy and its resources.
Overall, the aforementioned are the three largest sources of wealth for Assad. He finances a war in Syria mainly by investing capital from his own wealth, using arms and ammunition form Russia and Iranians ground forces to support him in military struggles. While these sources are basically his only lifeline for now, should his regime collapse he will have some heavy debts to pay.