APRIL 15, 2018


The announcement of the departure of armed fighters from the Douma neighborhood near Damascus was interrupted by an almost overlooked statement by one group that there were still issues to be settled. While international reporters speculated about political and military aspects, a fairly well-informed source hinted that the delay was mainly financial.

A particular group of fighters, who were mainly subsidized over six years by a certain Gulf country, sought assurances that it could carry cases of cash. An unbelievable amount of 900 million dollars was mentioned. The accumulated money was certainly not from the poor people of Douma, who could hardly find their daily bread. On the other side, government security elements were seen taking away basic furniture, including refrigerators, leaving nothing to those mostly in need. Adding to the inhabitant's tragedy is the use of poisonous gas, regardless of accusations and conspiracy theories. The critical point is that most of the conflicting parties were mainly receiving funds from competing foreign sources, in addition to the military arms and political posturing. No party could claim to be immune to seeking and receiving funds.

The major tragedy is that one of the most remarkable symbols of a cultural-social mosaic like Syria, which throughout history kept its varied backgrounds into a unified society, was mercilessly fragmented to the point of de facto partition. For example, the Central region, mainly controlled by the current regime with Russian and Iranian support, and the Eastern region, particularly around the oil rich area of Raqqa and Deir El-Zour, a combination of Syrian Democratic Forces and Kurdish fighters, supported by American military advisors, have overall control of 90% of Syria's oil, which remains a main target. Initially, ISIS -- which had controlled it -- used to sell the oil for billions to proclaimed adversaries and professional smugglers. Both U.S. and Russian military officers closely watch that tempting neighborhood shifting to the South. A serious threat to international peace could erupt by a miscalculation. In the North there is a conflicting combination of various troops, from Syrian locals, to Turkish troops closer to Afrin, yet alone Idlib where there are remnants of deported Islamist fighters, that watch nervously from one of the last resorts.

When a photo of a Turkish-Russian-Iranian summit was headlined in regional media, an Arab columnist in Al-Hayat Daily, Walid Choukair, suggested sarcastically that the caption should read "A Meeting of Syria's Presidents with two Additions, U.S. President Trump and Damascus Resident Bashar Al-Assad."

Fighters from abroad were publicly subsidized and placed in residential areas replacing its migrating inhabitants. Millions were paid by certain countries whose interest is questionable, mainly to keep the conflict going. Ironically and tragically, while certain fighters insisted on their personal safety and cashing millions of dollars, at least six million Syrian citizens were forced to migrate.

And you wonder why many question the role of the international community. What is it actually doing? Could it not do any better?