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Six Years on War in Syria: What Are the Real Reasons?

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By Shehab al-Makahleh •

March 16 marks the 6th anniversary of a war that has been described as the worst the world has seen in 50 years, and one that resulted in the death of more than 350,000 and the displacement of more than 12 million. Syria, the Cradle of Civilization, which dates back beyond 8000 years B.C., the home of jasmine tree and the red rose, the country where mosques and churches are built close to each other, where all religions co-exist, has faced the worst destructive wave of violence supported by many countries which deemed the Syrian government of Bashar Al Assad a hindrance to ‘democracy and freedom’.

Manipulative propaganda and directed media silenced peoples’ voices and disseminated fabricated news and coverage of the events in Syria, turning black into white through dishonest reporting that aggravated the death toll and destruction of the Cradle of Civilization and the three monotheistic religions.

The questions that logically arise for anyone seeking to understand the situation are: who benefits from this war and what is it waged for?

Who are the beneficiaries of the Syrian war?

It is not easy to write about all the countries which planned to force the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to step down since he succeeded his father in 2000 as the head of state. However, there are two major states which regard Syria as a threat to its neighbors. The first one is Israel which considers Syria under Al-Assad rule as a threat to its sovereignty and control of the Middle East region. The Israelis have not forgotten their war in 2006 against Hizbollah in Southern Lebanon, placing the blame on Syria for supporting and arming the Lebanese fighters to launch missiles against Israel and spreading fear amongst settlers in northern Israel. It was their time to take revenge on the Syrian government by supporting rebels by all means, which culminated in shoring up logistic and intelligence support to these fighters, arming them and admitting them to Israeli hospitals for treatment. Just recently, Israeli jetfighters targeted some of Syrian army headquarters, claiming that they were designed to accommodate weapons and munitions to be shipped to Hizbollah in Lebanon.

The second country is Turkey which has been affected by Bashar Al Assad’s government refusal of laying down the gas pipeline from Qatar to Turkey via Iraq and Syria. This prompted the Turkish government to change their stance in pursuance of their national economic interest. The Turkish government announced that it duly supported the rebelling Syrians against their government to help them regain their ‘freedom and to instill democracy in the country’. This was the public face of it, but the real reason was far from democracy and freedom.

What are the real reasons for the war on Syria?

The real reason for the Syrian war is its natural resources: oil, gas, uranium and silicon. These are Syria’s most important resources. For oil, it has been explored in some locations, with huge reserves in Qara area in rural Damascus or what is known as (Reef Dimashq). The estimates are 650 meter thick oil stratum, 18 times more than that known worldwide per strata, which is only (20-30 meter thick). In other words, this makes Syria a major oil producer with the minimum capacity of 1.7 million barrels of oil per day from this field alone. Another field is in the Golan Heights which Israel occupied in 1967. The reserves discovered in these heights amount to 350 meter thick oil stratum. That is, the production of this field would amount to another 1 million barrels per day.

A 2013 report issued by a New Jersey-based oil company showed that this quantity is under the 153-square mile radius in the southern parts of the Golan Heights. Thus, the only way to exploit this natural resource without facing any opposition from the Syrians who are a major stumbling block in the way of the oil extraction project was to instigate a war. The war was expected to lead to the dissolution of the Syrian government, and fragmentation of the society along tribal and sectarian lines, and ultimately balkanization of its territory to pave way for the foreign oil companies to start concession work without major obstacles.

As for gas, a study published by a French oil services firm revealed that Syria also has significant hydrocarbon potentials offshore. Several studies followed that French study by many other oil and gas companies which proved that Syria has several flat spots that accommodate trillions of cubic feet of gas, turning Syria into one of the top 3 main gas producers.

The third important natural resource which could as well be the main reason for the war is the discovery of uranium in 25 per cent of Syrian Al Jazeera area. This finding justifies the intent of some countries to control that region, as this important resource can be used for civilian power production and scientific purposes as well as for nuclear weapons.

The fourth natural resource is the silicon found in the Syrian-Iraqi desert. This resource can be used in many high technology industries. It can also produce energy and be an alternative resource to produce power.

After six year of a dirty proxy war, which took a major turn in late 2015 after Russian military intervention, that curbed terrorist expansionist activities towards other Syrian cities, and helped Syrian army make significant gains against the host of militants, the coming period will likely witness further escalation. Major powers with vested interests will try to play all their cards this time to gain the utmost in the tug of war, benefitting from the state of hesitancy and disarray within the new US administration.

Shehab al-Makahleh is a co-founder of Geostrategic Media, senior political and economic analyst and media adviser