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ISIS went from a few individuals in the Middle East to a terrorist state which controlled 88,000 sq km of territory stretching from Syria to Iraq. While actively ruling over almost 8 million people, they generated billions of dollars in revenue from operations such as kidnappings and running oil wells.
Today, it is defeated and spread out, though it still has access to a relatively large supply of cash, and is further fuelled by a deadly ideology spreading internationally.
In the background, after years of intense allied bombing and brutal fighting, most of the area the terrorist state once ruled has been left largely in rubble, with millions of the region’s former inhabitants taking refuge in nations both close and afar. In terms of Syrians alone, there are more than 6.6 million displaced, notably with almost one million being in the tiny country of Lebanon.
Most will have only see ruins as they return. A sad example is Aleppo, Syria’s largest city which lost an estimated 33,500 buildings.
The people returning and those who have remained will find limited funds to repair their decimated homes from Russia, Iran, or their own government, as each respective group is already in the midst of deep economic woes.
According to UN Special Envoy Stefan de Mistura, the cost to rebuild Syria alone could amount to $250 billion. Last year, according to an article by Rodger Shanahan, a World Bank report estimated that to the end of 2016, “the war had cost the Syrian economy $226 billion in lost GDP.”
Few western nations would pick up that bill, especially if means reconstructing a Syria which will likely be left in the hands of Assad, Iran and Russia.
If allowed to occur, the result here would be a fairly unstable Syria, left with an extremely desperate population that will at least partially blame the west for their current circumstances. Those desperate individuals will find the hand of ex-ISIS money lenders, fostering the relationship between the people and Islamist extremists needed to set up another potential terrorist state in a few years or even months.
The West obviously has to act.
There is a problem here though. Why should the west be expected to take on the cost to rebuild a nation that will likely act in direct opposition to their overall regional interests? Realistically it can’t.
Financially secure nations who do oppose a terrorist state hellbent on the destruction of western life simply can’t allow the current circumstances to continue.
In effect, the West may have to negotiate some arrangement with Russia, or even Iran that sees Syria rebuilt, and regional stability with Israel, our ally, maintained.
With the hefty price tag of $250 billion, and so many Syrians suffering, you would think that some kind of deal could be struck either with Assad, or, if needed, the people of Syria.
What do you think? Join the conversation by commenting below!