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The Origins of the Syrian Conflict

The Origins of the Syrian Conflict

Metadata

  • Author: Marwa Daoudy
  • Full Title: The Origins of the Syrian Conflict
  • Category: #books

Highlights

  • Climatic facts are not facts in themselves; they assume importance only in relation to the restructuring of the environment within different systems of production. (Location 311)
  • We are who we are today because of past climatic changes. (Location 317)
  • Although climate is always naturally changing and evolving, human activities have shaped global, regional, and local climates. Starting in about 1800, greenhouse-gas emissions from human activities – primarily related to the combustion of fossil fuels – spurred climate changes, most notably through an average global temperature increase. Since the “Great Acceleration,” beginning in the 1950s, these changes have been occurring at an alarming and unprecedented rate. (Location 345)
  • Anthropogenic climate change is a phenomenon of both the present and future: Temperatures have increased on average 0.75 degrees Celsius over the past century and are predicted to increase by a further 1.8–4 degrees Celsius by the end of this century (IPCC, 2018: 6). (Location 361)
  • Key to the climate-conflict nexus is the idea that climate change is a “threat multiplier” or “stressor” – a factor that works with others to increase the likelihood of violent conflict. In this line of reasoning, environmental (Location 379)
  • spawning a new discourse of “collapsology.” This term, coined by French researchers Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens (2015), refers to a general collapse of societies induced by climate change, scarcity of resources, vast extinctions, and natural disasters. (Location 396)
  • Should we securitize climate change in order to raise awareness and spur action? (Location 416)
  • Employing this climate-conflict nexus narrative also makes autonomous governments, particularly those in the Global South, passive actors and mere victims of nature rather than political actors with the will and power to make their own policy to address climate instability. (Location 421)
  • In Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary Before the Flood (2016), President Obama links drought to civil unrest in Syria, a thought that was echoed a few months later in an interview with Prince Charles prior to the opening of the COP 21 global climate summit in Paris. (Location 432)
  • Darfur” (Ban, 2007). In 2011, however, climate change was not at the forefront of the minds of people on the streets in Syria and across the Arab world. Instead, most people were focused on a moral ideal: the end of repression and injustice. (Location 439)
  • The unrest in Egypt and Tunisia in early 2011 triggered brewing discontent of populations in other part of the Arab world, like Syria, and on March 18, 2011, the people of Deraa in southwestern Syria came out in massive numbers to protest the torture of schoolchildren by security services. (Location 441)
  • the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant and its conquest and loss of large sections of territory and infrastructures in Syria from 2014 to 2019 added an additional geostrategic layer to the Syrian conflict. The (Location 452)
  • This re-entrenchment of economic power and systematic cronyism has been referred to as an “authoritarian upgrading” (Heydemann, 2007) that created “new vulnerabilities” (Hinnebusch and Zintl, 2015: 290). (Location 474)
  • Bashar al-Assad’s strategies of “authoritarian upgrading” were incredibly effective at exploiting preexisting tensions and fears and framing divides (Location 492)
  • divides. Under Assad, economic opportunities were handed to regime elites – namely Alawites – and key subsidies were cut for many Syrians, particularly the Sunni peasantry; this decrease in the “social reach of the state” encouraged strong substate actors such as tribal, religious, and sect leaders to play roles previously filled by the state (Phillips, 2015: 367). (Location 496)
  • In a series of scientific and academic journal articles, Syria became a showcase for “climate-induced” displacement and unrest, sparking a debate as to whether climate change contributed to the conflict (Ababsa, 2015; Burke et al., 2014; De Châtel, 2014; Femia and Werrell, 2012; Fröhlich, 2016; Gleick, 2014, 2017; Hendrix, 2017; Hoerling et al., 2012; Kelley et al., 2015, 2017; Selby et al., 2017a).7 (Location 510)
  • First, the revolts did not take place in the rural areas struck by drought. The uprising started in Damascus and Deraa in southwestern Syria, while the drought occurred in the northeastern and eastern provinces, and more significantly in Syria’s breadbasket region, the Hassake governorate. (Location 535)
  • Second, although some of the farmers from these regions had relocated to the suburbs of Damascus and Deraa, there is no evidence that these migrant farmers contributed to the uprising. (Location 544)
  • Third, water scarcity has plagued the country since the 1950s. To the extent that drought caused human suffering that could have fueled further discontent, the drought itself was not only a consequence of climate change but also the result of long-term pressures and official mismanagement of water resources. (Location 548)
  • While I accept that climate change plays a role in creating water scarcity, I argue that the principal cause of water insecurity in Syria was government policy, framed by specific political and water ideologies. (Location 568)
  • These policies were not climate-induced: They were government decisions that reflected the ideology and preferences of ruling elites. Motivated by their own short- or long-term reasons, elites pursued policies that were not compatible with long-term water or food security. (Location 574)
  • At the core of the HECS framework is multidimensionality in analyzing how political, economic, and climate factors contribute to aspects of human vulnerability at all levels. (Location 598)
  • Wisner et al. (2004: 11) pull these parallel concepts together to define vulnerability as “the characteristics of a person or group and their situation that influence their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impact of a natural hazard.” In this sense, vulnerability and resilience factors show the relationship between political, economic, climate, and food and water insecurity identified by the HECS model. (Location 653)
  • human–environmental–climate security (HECS). HECS challenges the aforementioned assumptions as overly deterministic and as failing to take into account the economic and sociopolitical factors that interact with resource variation. (Location 830)
  • Environmental factors were first integrated into the concept of security in the early 1980s by two organizations that wanted to investigate the links between environmental degradation, scarcity, and armed conflict: the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (Gleditsch, 1998). (Location 854)
  • No individual state can obtain its own security without the mutual cooperation and participation of other states (Blackaby, 1986: 395). (Location 870)
  • Post-constructivist ideas of security therefore gradually moved away from states and toward networks of individuals and non-state actors. (Location 879)
  • The Copenhagen School’s definition of security outlines the social and discursive construction of threats through the establishment of “referent objects” – particular activities or sectors beyond the state (Buzan et al., 1998: 22–23). It argues in favor of a more profound extension of security threats to nonmilitary issues – such as the environment – beyond the traditional “objective” materialist threat analysis (Buzan, 2007: 2). The introduction of discourses is crucial since showing how they are constructed and amplified reveals many assumptions. In this context, discourses refer to “specific ensemble of ideas, concepts and categorizations that are produced and transformed in a particular set of practices and through which meaning is given to physical and social realities” (Hajer, 1995: 42). (Location 916)
  • The process of securitization therefore means that actors in the field communicate specific discourses about perceived threats that have implications for policy outcomes. (Location 934)
  • Security relates to mutual perceptions, and who or what is being secured is always implicit but often left unstated. These mutual perceptions are of critical importance in understanding the securitization of the environment. (Location 967)
  • Buzan and others have shown how treating the environment as an object to be protected in a security framework constitutes one of the “securitization moves” by actors who use the threat of insecurity to justify their own political or foreign policy agendas (Buzan et al., 1998: 29). (Location 988)
  • The two prevailing perspectives on water resources are resource optimists, who argue that cooperation and strategic sharing of water resources can mitigate potential threats of water instability, and resource pessimists, who see conflict as inevitable because of scarce resources and institutional weaknesses surrounding their governance. (Location 1017)
  • The Toronto School and the Bern-Zürich Group developed the notion of “environmental scarcity” during the 1990s, which paved the way for alarmist predictions of high risks of resource wars because of decreased supplies of environmental resources induced by population growth, water depletion, and the socially inequitable distribution of resources (Bachler et al., 1996; Homer-Dixon, 1994: 18–20). (Location 1022)
  • This approach therefore tends to regard threats through a Western lens and has been put forward primarily by scholars from North America and Europe. (Location 1062)
  • it is the fear itself and the perception of scarcity through securitization narratives that creates the very insecurity that drives unsafe and violent behavior, both on the part of states and individuals. Thus, even though the electorates in the Global North may not be facing a real threat of resource scarcity, it is the perception of scarcity that motivates otherizing and violent actions (Matthews, 1989). (Location 1083)
  • An increasing number of analyses have started to show that the neo-Malthusian assumptions about environmental stressors and the link between conflict and environmental scarcity, especially along the axis of renewable resources, are fraught with oversimplification, a lack of accurate data, and theoretical weakness (Koubi et al., 2014). (Location 1096)
  • Despite these divergent trends, three common themes and issues in water security emerge across the literature – water-related hazards, human need (which is often tied to food security), and sustainability, which incorporates perspectives on protecting and maintaining the natural environment) – while water availability and quantity are assessed to quantify water security. (Location 1189)
  • In the 1980s, Swedish hydrologist Malin Falkenmark designated the following standard definitions for water insecurity, later coined as “the Falkenmark indicator”: Greater than 1,700 cubic meters per person per year is defined as relative water sufficiency, between 1,700 and 1,000 cubic meters as a state of water stress, between 1,000 and 500 cubic meters per year as meeting the water scarcity line, and absolute water scarcity starts at less than 500 cubic meters per person per year (Falkenmark, 1986; Falkenmark et al., 2007; Falkenmark and Molden, 2008; Rijsberman, 2006). (Location 1199)
  • The “Falkenmark indicator” has, since then, evolved into a new standard, referred to as water crowding (see Figure 2.4).2 The diagram distinguishes between demand-driven (water stress) and population driven (water crowding) water scarcity. (Location 1212)
  • meteorological drought (Location 1232)
  • agricultural drought (Location 1233)
  • hydrologic drought (Location 1236)
  • The framing of water issues greatly impacts the response to the perceived threat. Unfortunately, no one definition can account for all of the social and political nuances that shape water access and distribution, which are arguably the two determining factors of water security. (Location 1247)
  • climate change has been shown to be a definite stressor of conflict, since increased variation of water flows and more frequent extreme weather events can trigger conflict and resource allocation issues (MacQuarrie and Wolf, 2013: 175). (Location 1278)
  • Gleick’s (2006) study of water conflict chronology argues that in numerous cases political forces interact with water resources, leading to conflict. Although he found no cases in which water access or supplies were themselves the root of an armed conflict, there were ninety-one cases of conflict in which water resources or systems were used as weapons or as targets during armed conflict. In addition, he finds 173 cases in which water resources or systems were used by a nation, state or non-state actor for a political goal, or by non-state actors as a tool of terrorism, and fifty-five cases in which water resources or systems were shown to be a major source of contention in the context of economic or social development. These classifications show clearly how definitions of water security can become enmeshed with discussions of political stability. (Location 1281)
    1. Human security is a universal concern relevant to people everywhere. 2. The components of human security are interdependent. 3. Human security is easier to ensure through early prevention. 4. The referent object of human security is shifted away from states to people. (Location 1355)
  • The state has traditionally been the referent object of security, but Ul-Haq (1995: 103–104) and Sen (2000) place human beings as the reference objects of security and development by arguing that improving human lives should be an explicit development objective. (Location 1378)
  • Human security is therefore the ability to not only live without harm but also to actively improve one’s safety, quality of life, and well-being. Ul-Haq (Location 1403)
  • Sen further argues that human development can be defined as “growth with equity,” whereas human security is “downturn with security” (Sen, 1999: 28). Human security enables people to make choices safely and freely; therefore, it is a useful framework to understand resource use and environmental risk (Tadjbakhsh and Chenoy, 2007: 107). (Location 1423)
  • Therefore, the “central paradox” of human security is that “although structures and norms that produce human insecurity are challenged, the remaining and reinforcing effects of the traditional power structures on the vulnerable may achieve the opposite effects to the emancipatory aims, disempowering the vulnerable even more” (Hardt, 2012: 217). Dalby elaborates on this when he argues proponents of human security must also acknowledge the feedback loops between international capitalism and control of environmental resources. As a result, environmental hazards, such as hurricanes or droughts, must be considered in light of growing international inequalities (Dalby, 2013: 128). This is particularly relevant for our understanding of the Syrian case at a time when drought intertwined with neoliberal policies resulted in drastic regional inequalities and human insecurity. (Location 1475)
  • making assumptions about “security” without identifying or making the case for a certain referent object of the security policy leads to misunderstandings over the nature of climate insecurity and how it actually operates on political, social, and ecological levels. (Location 1525)
  • Researchers and policy-makers sometimes confuse the concepts of climate change and climate variability, often using the terms interchangeably (Seter, 2016: (Location 1530)
  • Climate vulnerability is a term that broadly refers to the degree to which a system is susceptible to versus able to cope with the ecological, economic, sociological, and political effects of climate change. (Location 1549)
  • As Dalby argues: “Vulnerability has to be understood as a complex social and ecological situation that is entwined with the social and economic entitlements available to particular people in specific circumstances” (2013: 128). (Location 1582)
  • widely. The 1996 World Food Summit delineated the most widely accepted definition of food security as “a state in which all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food” (Coates, 2013; Minot and Pelijor, 2010). (Location 1596)
  • As Mitchell writes, Egypt’s food problem was not a matter of “too many people occupying too little land,” (2002: 175) but rather one in which land management was privatized, shifting ownership away from agricultural workers and the state and toward the private sector. (Location 1690)
  • Egypt’s food insecurity was not an issue of too little land but of the deliberate dispossession of the many by the few – a problem confirmed by Barnes when she argues that Egypt’s expansion of agricultural land through land reclamation occurred through a process of dispossession of rural people by the state and international “experts” (Barnes, 2014: 125, 130–133). (Location 1695)
  • The relationship between climate change and conflict may be more broadly influenced by sampling bias in the datasets. Methodological challenges have plagued both quantitative and qualitative studies (Dalby, 2017b). (Location 1751)
  • Such criticism seems particularly relevant to the Syrian case, especially where the conflict narrative is deployed by policy-makers and the media to warn of the potential consequences of climate change (Selby et al., 2017b: 255). (Location 1775)
  • that only the combination of climate change and “structural factors” can consistently be correlated with conflict (Adger et al., 2014; Ide, 2015). (Location 1782)
  • Although climate change does not lead directly to violence, its manifestation through drought can challenge local coping mechanisms and add fuel to conflict. (Location 1785)
  • Both political rhetoric and policy-making now successfully securitize migration as a global and regional threat (Trombetta, 2014). (Location 1824)
  • Migration due to climate change is mostly an internal phenomenon, and populations are therefore considered to be migrants or internally displaced persons and not refugees (Boas, 2015: 8; Tertrais, 2011: 24). (Location 1846)
  • These two hypothesized causal relationships are exceptionally important in the case of Syria because of its high levels of internally and externally displaced people after 2011. (Location 1873)
  • The number of refugees from Syria has also increased dramatically because of the ongoing conflict. By March 2019, there were an estimated 6.2 million displaced Syrians within the country and an additional 5.6 registered refugees outside its borders, making the country one of the largest producers of refugees in the world (UNHCR, 2019). (Location 1879)
  • Following the dramatic drought of 2006–2010 and before the war started in 2011, approximately 80,000–100,000 families from northeastern and eastern Syria – equivalent to approximately 370,000 to 460,000 individuals – were forced to leave their homes to seek better livelihoods in other parts of the country.3 Forced to move to slums in Deraa and Damascus, to flee insecurity and seek work, these displaced populations (referred to in Syria as “the displaced” or al-nazihin) faced utter neglect on the part of their government (Location 1882)
  • Climate-induced migration, therefore, remains largely a speculative phenomenon, based on misperceptions rather than actual facts. It is some sort of “futurology,” in which climate-induced migration is “a theoretical possibility, but not an actually existing clearly defined group of people” (Baldwin et al., 2014: 122). The (Location 1960)
  • This section seeks to demonstrate that before postcolonial legislation of the late 1940s, Islamic law already governed water use. (Location 2133)
  • The primary source of Islamic water-management practices is Shari’a, which is an Arabic word meaning Islamic law. In fact, this term may have initially referred to the law or path to water, which demonstrates the foundational role of water in Islam (Mallat, 1995: 128).10 (Location 2153)
  • This limited access to water sparked many conflicts between nomads and sedentary populations. However, in the Quran, water was recognized as the most important divine creation after human creation, and universal access to water resources was established (Faruqui, 2001b: 1). Water is essential for the daily practice of Islam because of the necessity of purification, or ablution, before the prayer (wudu). (Location 2160)
  • since the GAP is far from complete, the impact has so far been more an issue of the quality of water than its quantity. (Location 2280)
  • The first GAP Master Plan of 1989 did not consider how to handle the drainage of return flows from irrigation, and, as a result, it was estimated that 40 percent of the water from the Tigris reaching Syria and 25 percent of the water reaching Iraq from Turkey would have been polluted return flows. (Location 2282)
  • As of 1984, Syrian elites linked the issue of water-sharing to Turkey’s domestic security by providing military support to its Kurdish insurgency, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkaren Kurdistan, PKK) (see Figure 3.2). (Location 2300)
  • during the filling-up period of the Atatürk Dam reservoir and until the final allocation of the waters of the Euphrates among the three riparian countries, the Turkish side undertook to release a yearly average of more than 500 m3/s at the Turkish–Syrian borders, and in cases where the monthly flow fell below the level of 500 m3/s, the Turkish side agreed to make up the difference during the following month. (Syrian Arab Republic, 1987) This agreement was historic: It was the first bilateral agreement over water between the two countries. (Location 2338)
  • However, the water coming from Syria became increasingly unusable for downstream farmers in Syria because of decreasing water quality from upstream drainage.24 In response, the downstream riparian maintained the link between the Kurdish issue and water-sharing, triggering several peaks of conflict in the 1990s. (Location 2359)
  • The 2011 Syrian uprising propelled a return to conflict with Turkey as the relationship between Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gradually collapsed (Daoudy, 2016). (Location 2463)
  • The waters of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers became tools of power once again. In 2014, Turkey allegedly limited downstream flows on the Euphrates again, in order to influence the battle for Aleppo in northern Syria (Shamout, 2014; Vidal, 2014), gradually reducing the water flow to Syria over six days in May before completely cutting off water for eight days in August (Dohrmann and Hatem, 2014: 581). (Location 2467)
  • book, I now return to the HECS framework to explore the key political variable of ideology on water and food security in Syria under Ba’athism as well as under liberalism. (Location 2494)
  • I defy anyone to claim that the displaced populations triggered unrest. We Syrians have always lived in arid areas, and climate variability has been historically high. The problem was not about climate change but about the developmental mistakes made by the government. There was no transparency in food-security policies, ideological paralysis, heightened corruption, and the relevant ministries did not recognize their mistakes. No one dared to say anything out of fear. The main triggers of the Revolution were corruption, lack of justice, and the mistakes made in the government’s development plans. (Syrian water expert interviewed by author on condition of anonymity, Beirut, December 4, 2015) (Location 2598)
  • Delvin describes how the first Ba’athist party, the Arab Socialist (Resurrection) Party, began as a movement that stood for “Arab nationalism, freedom from foreign rule, and the establishment of a single Arab state” (Delvin, 1991: 1396). (Location 2650)
  • In the Syrian context, ideologies such as Ba’athism, the personality cult of Hafez al-Assad, and economic liberalization under Bashar al-Assad interacted with state power to initiate agrarian reforms that valued food security over environmental conservation. (Location 2673)
  • According to Wedeen, although citizens are not required to act according to a belief in national ideology or symbols, they need to “act as if” they did (Wedeen, 2015: 67). As citizens are acting as if they believe in a national ideology, they are complicit in its spread and implementation; in fact, all citizens therefore “confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, are the system” (Wedeen, 2015: 76). Belief in an ideology of no compromise forces citizens to surrender not only their bodies and minds to the state but their “imaginations” as well; the regime removes from its people the power to create or imagine a vision of what their life would look like outside of the system it has built for them. This leads to a kind of collective depoliticization, in which individual people lose the power of political cognition or agency and become apolitical, without the energy or will to resist, or to exhibit “dignity” as agents (Wedeen, 2015: 81). If this occurs, adherence to the ideology does not need to be violently enforced, as depoliticization means that obedience is inevitable. (Location 2683)
  • Not only was the president’s rural background seen as exemplary, but his whole persona became an embodiment of the archetypical citizen in Syrian political art, which was strategically employed to his political advantage (Wedeen, 2015: 46). (Location 2733)
  • The Ba’athist Rural Contract The previous sections briefly addressed the importance of the “peasant” symbol in defining the new Ba’athist ideology, crystallizing and empowering its ruling elites. As such, rural agricultural policies were crucial to the political development of Syrian society in the 1960s and 1970s (Hannoyer, 1985: 26; Hinnebusch, 1982: 110), to the extent that Hinnebusch has characterized the Ba’ath Party’s rise to power as a “green uprising” (1989: 19). In fact, in one of its first meetings in June 1963, the Sixth National Congress of June 1963 stated that Syria’s modernization would be achieved through an agrarian revolution (Olson, 1982: 56). (Location 2799)
  • Alawis and peasants were not able to afford this, which increased their proportion in the military and ultimately allowed more Alawite officers to climb the ranks and fill positions that had previously been held by the urban Sunni military class. (Location 2857)
  • The party’s legitimacy had been gained through a social contract that increasingly included rural communities and was maintained through peasant organizations and corporations. (Location 2861)
  • generally, land reform was a “mobilizational technique” through which the regime was able to organize mass support among the peasants while building a new agrarian administrative bureaucracy (Hinnebusch, 1976: 4). (Location 2873)
  • The government started framing their economic policies as pragmatic rather than ideological in nature; for example, the land tenure system gradually moved toward decollectivization as the government discarded some of its socialist ideological roots in favor of a more efficient approach (Location 2885)
  • Under Hafez al-Assad, the symbol and rhetoric surrounding Ba’athist ideology gradually crystallized around the objective of food security. This national priority was financed by rents from Syria’s domestic oil industry, which had grown significantly by the mid 1980s, and from the Soviet Union and Arab Gulf states in the aftermath of the 1973 October war. Interestingly, the Syrian state constituted a peculiar type of rentier state that allocated most external rents to the expansion of its agricultural sector (Selby, 2018: 9).5 In 1975, the state further consolidated its control over the agricultural sector with a law that gave the Higher Agricultural Council authority to enforce “a planned compulsory crop rotation” (Barnes, 2009: 553). This allowed the state to massively increase wheat production to the extent that it became Syria’s main crop and also to implement intensive irrigation to increase production yields and expand cultivated areas. (Location 2892)
  • Syria’s food self-sufficiency was predicated on intensive irrigation; however, that came at a cost of overuse of groundwater resources and the deterioration of soils.6 (Location 2905)
  • There are inherent security ramifications to this distinction. According to official narratives in the 1980s and 1990s, food security in Syria was matter of national security because it meant that the country would not be cut off from importing necessary resources for strictly political reasons.7 (Location 2941)
  • wheat is Syria’s main crop, and although it does not require irrigation, intensive irrigation had been deployed to the point of saturation to increase yields to unsustainable levels. This intensive irrigation helped consolidate gains and profits for certain members of society while oversaturation of the market resulted in price hikes as Syria became a net exporter of wheat (Batatu, 1999: 88). (Location 2996)
  • Until the mid 1980s, 90 percent of cultivated land in Syria relied on rainwater, and its irregularity influenced agricultural production (Hannoyer, 1985: 24). There was a marked decline in cultivation during the 1980s as a result of unmitigated groundwater use, low rainfall, and the spread of salinity from mismanagement of irrigation or poor drainage, especially in the Euphrates basin and the al-Ghab region (Batatu, 1999: 77). (Location 3008)
  • Syrian experts note that government policies encouraging the spread of agricultural land also encouraged the overexploitation of groundwater resources due to large increases in the number of wells (Qatna, 2009: 8; Seifan, 2009a: 12; Soumi, 2009: 5). Since the 1960s, many laws were devised to stop the proliferation of wells illegally dug by farmers. (Location 3044)
  • The use of groundwater from licensed and unlicensed wells has considerably increased since 1990 for several reasons. First, irrigation from these sources is relatively cheap, requiring only the costs of construction and a pump. Second, 75 percent of farmers run small operations of less than 10 ha that are easily irrigated using wells (FAO, 1997). Third, the central government has a low monitoring capacity because of bureaucratic proliferation and core–periphery divides. Fourth, farmers perceive water to be a free public good. These last two incentives for overpumping are the focus of the next section. (Location 3068)
  • section, I outlined how fuel subsidies increase the proliferation of wells by making pumping cheaper, but food and water subsidies also create incentives for farmers to overexploit water resources. (Location 3090)
  • The Syrian government therefore supported wheat producers through water subsidies but also through direct subsidies per ton of wheat, which gave farmers prices that were two to three times higher than international prices. In the late 1990s, this meant that Syrian farmers received somewhere between 360 and 661 USD per ton of wheat, whereas the price on international markets was closer to 200 USD per ton (Biswas et al., 1997: 26). Prices were maintained at this level to ensure that low-income groups from the agricultural sector retained access to the water market. (Location 3113)
  • end, landowners only paid 20 percent of the real cost of irrigation (Bakour, 1991: 62). (Location 3124)
  • Over forty years, the process brought together the ruling elites and merchant classes in four stages: (1) after 1970 with Hafez al-Assad’s Corrective Movement, which signified the move away from Salah Jadid’s leftist and progressive Ba’athist ideology of the 1960s; (2) after 1986 with the era of ta’addudiyya (economic pluralism); (3) after 1990 with the infitah (opening); and finally, (4) after (Location 3414)
  • Many of Hafez al-Assad’s early policies were still relatively socialist, while the economy was stronger. For example, the 1975 law that created compulsory planting guidelines of strategic crops was passed during a time of unusually high profit margins (Batatu, 1999: 47). (Location 3431)
  • Although the fuel subsidy-reform was supposed to take place gradually from 2007 to 2013, all fuel subsidies ceased abruptly in May 2008. Agrarian communities purportedly supported the measure, but its impact on farmers who needed fuel to operate their machinery was devastating. Only seventeen months after the subsidy cuts, the government launched a new plan with cash payments for heating gas (mazout) for about 1 million families in need (Syria Report, 2009e). However, the decision was still too late in support of an already decimated community in the northeastern regions. (Location 3511)
  • In the same year, the World Bank encouraged the Syrian government to pursue subsidy reforms before they could join the World Trade Organization, because the subsidies mainly benefited wealthy farmers and encouraged unsustainable water use and noncompetitive crops such as cotton (World Bank, 2008: 20, 49, 50). According to World Bank calculations, diesel price subsidies to agriculture represented 2.6 percent of GDP, cotton price subsidies represented 0.9 percent of GDP, and wheat price subsidies were entirely absorbed by the increase in the world price of the same crop in 2007 (World (Location 3522)
  • Although the traditionalists managed to include policies to support the poor and marginalized in the shift toward a social market economy in the Tenth Five-Year Plan of 2006–2010, in reality, the new businessmen won the battle for reform, resulting in an abrupt opening of the market without social safety nets. (Location 3538)
  • The reforms that eliminated these subsidies fell under the Tenth Five-Year Plan, and Dardari argued that the reforms were not undertaken because of foreign pressure but because of their social ramifications in Syria. (Location 3546)
  • Dardari blamed the relative failure of the social market economy model on the 2006–2010 drought as well as government mismanagement and corruption.24 (Location 3553)
  • Dardari claims that he wanted to postpone the reduction of agricultural subsidies until after the drought, but he did not have the authority do so. (Location 3556)
  • Kelley et al. (2015) argue that while climate change did not cause the drought, it increased its severity. (Location 3868)
  • However, according to Francesca De Châtel, the majority of evidence suggesting climate change caused the 2006–2010 drought is based on climate models, and that these models are inadequate predictors of drought (De Châtel, 2014: 523). Selby and his coauthors echo this critique by pointing to conceptual problems in attributing the drought to climate change. (Location 3869)
  • When the fuel subsidies were removed in 2008, diesel fuel prices rose approximately 350 percent from 7 SYP to 25 SYP. This price spike coincided with farmers’ increased need to pump water because of declining soil moisture and precipitation from drought, and farmers needed the diesel to run their pumps. (Location 3945)
  • Three other government policies also increased the vulnerability of agriculturally-dependent communities. In December 2000, Decision No. 83 dismantled state farms that had played a central role in Syrian agriculture for decades. Land was distributed in 3-hectare parcels of irrigated land and 8-hectare parcels of nonirrigated land to former owners, farm workers, and state employees. (Location 3963)
  • literature. The implementation of these laws also caused significant land speculation, driving some land prices over 1,000 times the original costs. The price increases and sales allowed landowners to expel farmers from the land that they had developed and cultivated for years, indicating another point of marginalization and dispossession of Syria’s poorer communities (Ababsa, 2015: 211; Selby, 2018: 8). (Location 3977)
  • Decree No. 49, passed in 2008, restricted communities’ ability to buy and sell land along the border (Ababsa, 2015: 216). Government approval was required for all land sale transactions, and while the policy technically only applied to border areas, in practice, the entire Hassake governorate was subject to these restrictions (Ababsa, 2015: 216). The decree was part of Syria’s larger Arab Belt policy, which promoted the Arabization of Kurdish-inhabited areas and frequently discriminated against Kurdish inhabitants (discussed in more detail in Chapter 4). (Location 3981)
  • 527). The highest estimate of migrants is 600,000 people, reported by the United Nations Special Rapporteur (Selby et al., 2017a: 238). (Location 4015)
  • Estimates from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) stated that 300,000 people migrated to urban centers, including Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Raqqa, and Deir ez-Zor (Ababsa, 2015: 199, 209). Surveys by the United Nations Children’s Fund, however, reported that internally displaced persons were working in Tartous, Lattakia, and Deraa (Ababsa, 2015: 209–210). (Location 4029)
  • Critics of the migration-conflict linkage also note that the amount of internal migration pales in comparison with broader demographic trends that took place prior to the conflict. In the years before the uprising, Syria received 1.5 million refugees from Iraq and experienced a population growth of 3 million people (Selby et al., 2017a: 239). (Location 4036)
  • The overall loss of precipitation during the drought periods threatened the self-sufficient production of Syria’s strategic crops, especially wheat, forcing the country to import 1 million tons of wheat in 2007 and 2008 (FAO, 2003: 5). (Location 4488)
  • Both Drought 1 and Drought 2 had significant impacts on national wheat production in Syria. Figure 5.4 illustrates this trend, and, while data is not available prior to 2000 (or prior to 2007 at the governorate level), the impacts of Drought 1 are still evident as the yield per hectare in 2000 is particularly low at 1,850 kilograms per hectare (kg/ha). This inefficiency is only surpassed by 2008’s yield per hectare (1,440 kg/ha). (Location 4511)
  • The declining trend of Figure 5.8 has been attributed to a wide range of factors, including not only the decline in agricultural output but also increases in industrial activity (Nasr, 2009: 5). Some economists connect the decline in agricultural output to the drought while others are more partial to explanations located at the intersection of drought and government policy, including marketization, food security, and land fragmentation after Syria left the United Arab Republic in 1961. (Location 4757)
  • Understanding the role of agriculture at the local level is also critical, particularly in the case of the vulnerable Jazira region. Major transformations occurred from 2000 to 2009 in the agricultural sector, which gained productivity but lost large numbers of jobs, to the tune of approximately 20 percent of the total labor force (Aita, 2009: 3). (Location 4765)
  • The massive jump in emigration from 2005 to 2010 prior to the conflict has sometimes been attributed to Drought 2, though international sources have tended to confuse the number of farmers severely impacted by the drought with the numbers of farmers actually fleeing the region. (Location 4979)
  • an experienced Syrian water engineer blamed the government for failing to implement sustainable policies, putting in place only 10 percent of promised infrastructure without the necessary services for delivery. (Location 5021)
  • This approach crucially acknowledges that interacting environmental, political, and economic pressures occur in tandem with threats to water and food security and their ensuing migration and poverty, which in turn reinforce the original pressures in a recurring positive feedback loop. In this framework, vulnerability and resilience are parallel concepts that reveal how a lack of sustainability in combination with specific structural factors and inequalities threatens human life through the inability of systems to cope with unexpected change. (Location 5224)
  • Agrarian reforms enhanced living conditions in the countryside. However, the improved opportunities came at the expense of sustainable water use since large-scale irrigation in rural areas depleted groundwater resources and degraded soil quality, and, ultimately, resulted in human insecurity in the form of land-tenure disputes and population displacement. (Location 5244)
  • The analytical comparison of 1998–2001 (“Drought 1”) and 2006–2010 (“Drought 2”) based on information from government official reports, international academics and organizations, and interviews with Syrian experts and policy-makers supports the claim that climate change alone was not the cause of food and water insecurity during the decades prior to the uprisings. (Location 5263)
  • Corruption was a major obstacle to equitable and inclusive economic development in Syria. In the early 2000s, it was estimated that 200 billion lira were lost to corruption every year, amounting to 20–40 percent of GDP. While these factors might not have been sufficient to produce the Syrian uprising in 2011, the long-term structural seeds of conflict had been planted long before as a result of the government’s unsustainable practices. The severe stress on water and land resources magnified inequities and produced a ticking bomb waiting to detonate. Once (Location 5280)

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title: The Origins of the Syrian Conflict longtitle: The Origins of the Syrian Conflict author: Marwa Daoudy url: , source: kindle last_highlight: 2022-02-28 type: books tags:

The Origins of the Syrian Conflict

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Metadata

  • Author: Marwa Daoudy
  • Full Title: The Origins of the Syrian Conflict
  • Category: #books

Highlights

  • Climatic facts are not facts in themselves; they assume importance only in relation to the restructuring of the environment within different systems of production. (Location 311)
  • We are who we are today because of past climatic changes. (Location 317)
  • Although climate is always naturally changing and evolving, human activities have shaped global, regional, and local climates. Starting in about 1800, greenhouse-gas emissions from human activities – primarily related to the combustion of fossil fuels – spurred climate changes, most notably through an average global temperature increase. Since the “Great Acceleration,” beginning in the 1950s, these changes have been occurring at an alarming and unprecedented rate. (Location 345)
  • Anthropogenic climate change is a phenomenon of both the present and future: Temperatures have increased on average 0.75 degrees Celsius over the past century and are predicted to increase by a further 1.8–4 degrees Celsius by the end of this century (IPCC, 2018: 6). (Location 361)
  • Key to the climate-conflict nexus is the idea that climate change is a “threat multiplier” or “stressor” – a factor that works with others to increase the likelihood of violent conflict. In this line of reasoning, environmental (Location 379)
  • spawning a new discourse of “collapsology.” This term, coined by French researchers Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens (2015), refers to a general collapse of societies induced by climate change, scarcity of resources, vast extinctions, and natural disasters. (Location 396)
  • Should we securitize climate change in order to raise awareness and spur action? (Location 416)
  • Employing this climate-conflict nexus narrative also makes autonomous governments, particularly those in the Global South, passive actors and mere victims of nature rather than political actors with the will and power to make their own policy to address climate instability. (Location 421)
  • In Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary Before the Flood (2016), President Obama links drought to civil unrest in Syria, a thought that was echoed a few months later in an interview with Prince Charles prior to the opening of the COP 21 global climate summit in Paris. (Location 432)
  • Darfur” (Ban, 2007). In 2011, however, climate change was not at the forefront of the minds of people on the streets in Syria and across the Arab world. Instead, most people were focused on a moral ideal: the end of repression and injustice. (Location 439)
  • The unrest in Egypt and Tunisia in early 2011 triggered brewing discontent of populations in other part of the Arab world, like Syria, and on March 18, 2011, the people of Deraa in southwestern Syria came out in massive numbers to protest the torture of schoolchildren by security services. (Location 441)
  • the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant and its conquest and loss of large sections of territory and infrastructures in Syria from 2014 to 2019 added an additional geostrategic layer to the Syrian conflict. The (Location 452)
  • This re-entrenchment of economic power and systematic cronyism has been referred to as an “authoritarian upgrading” (Heydemann, 2007) that created “new vulnerabilities” (Hinnebusch and Zintl, 2015: 290). (Location 474)
  • Bashar al-Assad’s strategies of “authoritarian upgrading” were incredibly effective at exploiting preexisting tensions and fears and framing divides (Location 492)
  • divides. Under Assad, economic opportunities were handed to regime elites – namely Alawites – and key subsidies were cut for many Syrians, particularly the Sunni peasantry; this decrease in the “social reach of the state” encouraged strong substate actors such as tribal, religious, and sect leaders to play roles previously filled by the state (Phillips, 2015: 367). (Location 496)
  • In a series of scientific and academic journal articles, Syria became a showcase for “climate-induced” displacement and unrest, sparking a debate as to whether climate change contributed to the conflict (Ababsa, 2015; Burke et al., 2014; De Châtel, 2014; Femia and Werrell, 2012; Fröhlich, 2016; Gleick, 2014, 2017; Hendrix, 2017; Hoerling et al., 2012; Kelley et al., 2015, 2017; Selby et al., 2017a).7 (Location 510)
  • First, the revolts did not take place in the rural areas struck by drought. The uprising started in Damascus and Deraa in southwestern Syria, while the drought occurred in the northeastern and eastern provinces, and more significantly in Syria’s breadbasket region, the Hassake governorate. (Location 535)
  • Second, although some of the farmers from these regions had relocated to the suburbs of Damascus and Deraa, there is no evidence that these migrant farmers contributed to the uprising. (Location 544)
  • Third, water scarcity has plagued the country since the 1950s. To the extent that drought caused human suffering that could have fueled further discontent, the drought itself was not only a consequence of climate change but also the result of long-term pressures and official mismanagement of water resources. (Location 548)
  • While I accept that climate change plays a role in creating water scarcity, I argue that the principal cause of water insecurity in Syria was government policy, framed by specific political and water ideologies. (Location 568)
  • These policies were not climate-induced: They were government decisions that reflected the ideology and preferences of ruling elites. Motivated by their own short- or long-term reasons, elites pursued policies that were not compatible with long-term water or food security. (Location 574)
  • At the core of the HECS framework is multidimensionality in analyzing how political, economic, and climate factors contribute to aspects of human vulnerability at all levels. (Location 598)
  • Wisner et al. (2004: 11) pull these parallel concepts together to define vulnerability as “the characteristics of a person or group and their situation that influence their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impact of a natural hazard.” In this sense, vulnerability and resilience factors show the relationship between political, economic, climate, and food and water insecurity identified by the HECS model. (Location 653)
  • human–environmental–climate security (HECS). HECS challenges the aforementioned assumptions as overly deterministic and as failing to take into account the economic and sociopolitical factors that interact with resource variation. (Location 830)
  • Environmental factors were first integrated into the concept of security in the early 1980s by two organizations that wanted to investigate the links between environmental degradation, scarcity, and armed conflict: the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo (Gleditsch, 1998). (Location 854)
  • No individual state can obtain its own security without the mutual cooperation and participation of other states (Blackaby, 1986: 395). (Location 870)
  • Post-constructivist ideas of security therefore gradually moved away from states and toward networks of individuals and non-state actors. (Location 879)
  • The Copenhagen School’s definition of security outlines the social and discursive construction of threats through the establishment of “referent objects” – particular activities or sectors beyond the state (Buzan et al., 1998: 22–23). It argues in favor of a more profound extension of security threats to nonmilitary issues – such as the environment – beyond the traditional “objective” materialist threat analysis (Buzan, 2007: 2). The introduction of discourses is crucial since showing how they are constructed and amplified reveals many assumptions. In this context, discourses refer to “specific ensemble of ideas, concepts and categorizations that are produced and transformed in a particular set of practices and through which meaning is given to physical and social realities” (Hajer, 1995: 42). (Location 916)
  • The process of securitization therefore means that actors in the field communicate specific discourses about perceived threats that have implications for policy outcomes. (Location 934)
  • Security relates to mutual perceptions, and who or what is being secured is always implicit but often left unstated. These mutual perceptions are of critical importance in understanding the securitization of the environment. (Location 967)
  • Buzan and others have shown how treating the environment as an object to be protected in a security framework constitutes one of the “securitization moves” by actors who use the threat of insecurity to justify their own political or foreign policy agendas (Buzan et al., 1998: 29). (Location 988)
  • The two prevailing perspectives on water resources are resource optimists, who argue that cooperation and strategic sharing of water resources can mitigate potential threats of water instability, and resource pessimists, who see conflict as inevitable because of scarce resources and institutional weaknesses surrounding their governance. (Location 1017)
  • The Toronto School and the Bern-Zürich Group developed the notion of “environmental scarcity” during the 1990s, which paved the way for alarmist predictions of high risks of resource wars because of decreased supplies of environmental resources induced by population growth, water depletion, and the socially inequitable distribution of resources (Bachler et al., 1996; Homer-Dixon, 1994: 18–20). (Location 1022)
  • This approach therefore tends to regard threats through a Western lens and has been put forward primarily by scholars from North America and Europe. (Location 1062)
  • it is the fear itself and the perception of scarcity through securitization narratives that creates the very insecurity that drives unsafe and violent behavior, both on the part of states and individuals. Thus, even though the electorates in the Global North may not be facing a real threat of resource scarcity, it is the perception of scarcity that motivates otherizing and violent actions (Matthews, 1989). (Location 1083)
  • An increasing number of analyses have started to show that the neo-Malthusian assumptions about environmental stressors and the link between conflict and environmental scarcity, especially along the axis of renewable resources, are fraught with oversimplification, a lack of accurate data, and theoretical weakness (Koubi et al., 2014). (Location 1096)
  • Despite these divergent trends, three common themes and issues in water security emerge across the literature – water-related hazards, human need (which is often tied to food security), and sustainability, which incorporates perspectives on protecting and maintaining the natural environment) – while water availability and quantity are assessed to quantify water security. (Location 1189)
  • In the 1980s, Swedish hydrologist Malin Falkenmark designated the following standard definitions for water insecurity, later coined as “the Falkenmark indicator”: Greater than 1,700 cubic meters per person per year is defined as relative water sufficiency, between 1,700 and 1,000 cubic meters as a state of water stress, between 1,000 and 500 cubic meters per year as meeting the water scarcity line, and absolute water scarcity starts at less than 500 cubic meters per person per year (Falkenmark, 1986; Falkenmark et al., 2007; Falkenmark and Molden, 2008; Rijsberman, 2006). (Location 1199)
  • The “Falkenmark indicator” has, since then, evolved into a new standard, referred to as water crowding (see Figure 2.4).2 The diagram distinguishes between demand-driven (water stress) and population driven (water crowding) water scarcity. (Location 1212)
  • meteorological drought (Location 1232)
  • agricultural drought (Location 1233)
  • hydrologic drought (Location 1236)
  • The framing of water issues greatly impacts the response to the perceived threat. Unfortunately, no one definition can account for all of the social and political nuances that shape water access and distribution, which are arguably the two determining factors of water security. (Location 1247)
  • climate change has been shown to be a definite stressor of conflict, since increased variation of water flows and more frequent extreme weather events can trigger conflict and resource allocation issues (MacQuarrie and Wolf, 2013: 175). (Location 1278)
  • Gleick’s (2006) study of water conflict chronology argues that in numerous cases political forces interact with water resources, leading to conflict. Although he found no cases in which water access or supplies were themselves the root of an armed conflict, there were ninety-one cases of conflict in which water resources or systems were used as weapons or as targets during armed conflict. In addition, he finds 173 cases in which water resources or systems were used by a nation, state or non-state actor for a political goal, or by non-state actors as a tool of terrorism, and fifty-five cases in which water resources or systems were shown to be a major source of contention in the context of economic or social development. These classifications show clearly how definitions of water security can become enmeshed with discussions of political stability. (Location 1281)
    1. Human security is a universal concern relevant to people everywhere. 2. The components of human security are interdependent. 3. Human security is easier to ensure through early prevention. 4. The referent object of human security is shifted away from states to people. (Location 1355)
  • The state has traditionally been the referent object of security, but Ul-Haq (1995: 103–104) and Sen (2000) place human beings as the reference objects of security and development by arguing that improving human lives should be an explicit development objective. (Location 1378)
  • Human security is therefore the ability to not only live without harm but also to actively improve one’s safety, quality of life, and well-being. Ul-Haq (Location 1403)
  • Sen further argues that human development can be defined as “growth with equity,” whereas human security is “downturn with security” (Sen, 1999: 28). Human security enables people to make choices safely and freely; therefore, it is a useful framework to understand resource use and environmental risk (Tadjbakhsh and Chenoy, 2007: 107). (Location 1423)
  • Therefore, the “central paradox” of human security is that “although structures and norms that produce human insecurity are challenged, the remaining and reinforcing effects of the traditional power structures on the vulnerable may achieve the opposite effects to the emancipatory aims, disempowering the vulnerable even more” (Hardt, 2012: 217). Dalby elaborates on this when he argues proponents of human security must also acknowledge the feedback loops between international capitalism and control of environmental resources. As a result, environmental hazards, such as hurricanes or droughts, must be considered in light of growing international inequalities (Dalby, 2013: 128). This is particularly relevant for our understanding of the Syrian case at a time when drought intertwined with neoliberal policies resulted in drastic regional inequalities and human insecurity. (Location 1475)
  • making assumptions about “security” without identifying or making the case for a certain referent object of the security policy leads to misunderstandings over the nature of climate insecurity and how it actually operates on political, social, and ecological levels. (Location 1525)
  • Researchers and policy-makers sometimes confuse the concepts of climate change and climate variability, often using the terms interchangeably (Seter, 2016: (Location 1530)
  • Climate vulnerability is a term that broadly refers to the degree to which a system is susceptible to versus able to cope with the ecological, economic, sociological, and political effects of climate change. (Location 1549)
  • As Dalby argues: “Vulnerability has to be understood as a complex social and ecological situation that is entwined with the social and economic entitlements available to particular people in specific circumstances” (2013: 128). (Location 1582)
  • widely. The 1996 World Food Summit delineated the most widely accepted definition of food security as “a state in which all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food” (Coates, 2013; Minot and Pelijor, 2010). (Location 1596)
  • As Mitchell writes, Egypt’s food problem was not a matter of “too many people occupying too little land,” (2002: 175) but rather one in which land management was privatized, shifting ownership away from agricultural workers and the state and toward the private sector. (Location 1690)
  • Egypt’s food insecurity was not an issue of too little land but of the deliberate dispossession of the many by the few – a problem confirmed by Barnes when she argues that Egypt’s expansion of agricultural land through land reclamation occurred through a process of dispossession of rural people by the state and international “experts” (Barnes, 2014: 125, 130–133). (Location 1695)
  • The relationship between climate change and conflict may be more broadly influenced by sampling bias in the datasets. Methodological challenges have plagued both quantitative and qualitative studies (Dalby, 2017b). (Location 1751)
  • Such criticism seems particularly relevant to the Syrian case, especially where the conflict narrative is deployed by policy-makers and the media to warn of the potential consequences of climate change (Selby et al., 2017b: 255). (Location 1775)
  • that only the combination of climate change and “structural factors” can consistently be correlated with conflict (Adger et al., 2014; Ide, 2015). (Location 1782)
  • Although climate change does not lead directly to violence, its manifestation through drought can challenge local coping mechanisms and add fuel to conflict. (Location 1785)
  • Both political rhetoric and policy-making now successfully securitize migration as a global and regional threat (Trombetta, 2014). (Location 1824)
  • Migration due to climate change is mostly an internal phenomenon, and populations are therefore considered to be migrants or internally displaced persons and not refugees (Boas, 2015: 8; Tertrais, 2011: 24). (Location 1846)
  • These two hypothesized causal relationships are exceptionally important in the case of Syria because of its high levels of internally and externally displaced people after 2011. (Location 1873)
  • The number of refugees from Syria has also increased dramatically because of the ongoing conflict. By March 2019, there were an estimated 6.2 million displaced Syrians within the country and an additional 5.6 registered refugees outside its borders, making the country one of the largest producers of refugees in the world (UNHCR, 2019). (Location 1879)
  • Following the dramatic drought of 2006–2010 and before the war started in 2011, approximately 80,000–100,000 families from northeastern and eastern Syria – equivalent to approximately 370,000 to 460,000 individuals – were forced to leave their homes to seek better livelihoods in other parts of the country.3 Forced to move to slums in Deraa and Damascus, to flee insecurity and seek work, these displaced populations (referred to in Syria as “the displaced” or al-nazihin) faced utter neglect on the part of their government (Location 1882)
  • Climate-induced migration, therefore, remains largely a speculative phenomenon, based on misperceptions rather than actual facts. It is some sort of “futurology,” in which climate-induced migration is “a theoretical possibility, but not an actually existing clearly defined group of people” (Baldwin et al., 2014: 122). The (Location 1960)
  • This section seeks to demonstrate that before postcolonial legislation of the late 1940s, Islamic law already governed water use. (Location 2133)
  • The primary source of Islamic water-management practices is Shari’a, which is an Arabic word meaning Islamic law. In fact, this term may have initially referred to the law or path to water, which demonstrates the foundational role of water in Islam (Mallat, 1995: 128).10 (Location 2153)
  • This limited access to water sparked many conflicts between nomads and sedentary populations. However, in the Quran, water was recognized as the most important divine creation after human creation, and universal access to water resources was established (Faruqui, 2001b: 1). Water is essential for the daily practice of Islam because of the necessity of purification, or ablution, before the prayer (wudu). (Location 2160)
  • since the GAP is far from complete, the impact has so far been more an issue of the quality of water than its quantity. (Location 2280)
  • The first GAP Master Plan of 1989 did not consider how to handle the drainage of return flows from irrigation, and, as a result, it was estimated that 40 percent of the water from the Tigris reaching Syria and 25 percent of the water reaching Iraq from Turkey would have been polluted return flows. (Location 2282)
  • As of 1984, Syrian elites linked the issue of water-sharing to Turkey’s domestic security by providing military support to its Kurdish insurgency, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkaren Kurdistan, PKK) (see Figure 3.2). (Location 2300)
  • during the filling-up period of the Atatürk Dam reservoir and until the final allocation of the waters of the Euphrates among the three riparian countries, the Turkish side undertook to release a yearly average of more than 500 m3/s at the Turkish–Syrian borders, and in cases where the monthly flow fell below the level of 500 m3/s, the Turkish side agreed to make up the difference during the following month. (Syrian Arab Republic, 1987) This agreement was historic: It was the first bilateral agreement over water between the two countries. (Location 2338)
  • However, the water coming from Syria became increasingly unusable for downstream farmers in Syria because of decreasing water quality from upstream drainage.24 In response, the downstream riparian maintained the link between the Kurdish issue and water-sharing, triggering several peaks of conflict in the 1990s. (Location 2359)
  • The 2011 Syrian uprising propelled a return to conflict with Turkey as the relationship between Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gradually collapsed (Daoudy, 2016). (Location 2463)
  • The waters of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers became tools of power once again. In 2014, Turkey allegedly limited downstream flows on the Euphrates again, in order to influence the battle for Aleppo in northern Syria (Shamout, 2014; Vidal, 2014), gradually reducing the water flow to Syria over six days in May before completely cutting off water for eight days in August (Dohrmann and Hatem, 2014: 581). (Location 2467)
  • book, I now return to the HECS framework to explore the key political variable of ideology on water and food security in Syria under Ba’athism as well as under liberalism. (Location 2494)
  • I defy anyone to claim that the displaced populations triggered unrest. We Syrians have always lived in arid areas, and climate variability has been historically high. The problem was not about climate change but about the developmental mistakes made by the government. There was no transparency in food-security policies, ideological paralysis, heightened corruption, and the relevant ministries did not recognize their mistakes. No one dared to say anything out of fear. The main triggers of the Revolution were corruption, lack of justice, and the mistakes made in the government’s development plans. (Syrian water expert interviewed by author on condition of anonymity, Beirut, December 4, 2015) (Location 2598)
  • Delvin describes how the first Ba’athist party, the Arab Socialist (Resurrection) Party, began as a movement that stood for “Arab nationalism, freedom from foreign rule, and the establishment of a single Arab state” (Delvin, 1991: 1396). (Location 2650)
  • In the Syrian context, ideologies such as Ba’athism, the personality cult of Hafez al-Assad, and economic liberalization under Bashar al-Assad interacted with state power to initiate agrarian reforms that valued food security over environmental conservation. (Location 2673)
  • According to Wedeen, although citizens are not required to act according to a belief in national ideology or symbols, they need to “act as if” they did (Wedeen, 2015: 67). As citizens are acting as if they believe in a national ideology, they are complicit in its spread and implementation; in fact, all citizens therefore “confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, are the system” (Wedeen, 2015: 76). Belief in an ideology of no compromise forces citizens to surrender not only their bodies and minds to the state but their “imaginations” as well; the regime removes from its people the power to create or imagine a vision of what their life would look like outside of the system it has built for them. This leads to a kind of collective depoliticization, in which individual people lose the power of political cognition or agency and become apolitical, without the energy or will to resist, or to exhibit “dignity” as agents (Wedeen, 2015: 81). If this occurs, adherence to the ideology does not need to be violently enforced, as depoliticization means that obedience is inevitable. (Location 2683)
  • Not only was the president’s rural background seen as exemplary, but his whole persona became an embodiment of the archetypical citizen in Syrian political art, which was strategically employed to his political advantage (Wedeen, 2015: 46). (Location 2733)
  • The Ba’athist Rural Contract The previous sections briefly addressed the importance of the “peasant” symbol in defining the new Ba’athist ideology, crystallizing and empowering its ruling elites. As such, rural agricultural policies were crucial to the political development of Syrian society in the 1960s and 1970s (Hannoyer, 1985: 26; Hinnebusch, 1982: 110), to the extent that Hinnebusch has characterized the Ba’ath Party’s rise to power as a “green uprising” (1989: 19). In fact, in one of its first meetings in June 1963, the Sixth National Congress of June 1963 stated that Syria’s modernization would be achieved through an agrarian revolution (Olson, 1982: 56). (Location 2799)
  • Alawis and peasants were not able to afford this, which increased their proportion in the military and ultimately allowed more Alawite officers to climb the ranks and fill positions that had previously been held by the urban Sunni military class. (Location 2857)
  • The party’s legitimacy had been gained through a social contract that increasingly included rural communities and was maintained through peasant organizations and corporations. (Location 2861)
  • generally, land reform was a “mobilizational technique” through which the regime was able to organize mass support among the peasants while building a new agrarian administrative bureaucracy (Hinnebusch, 1976: 4). (Location 2873)
  • The government started framing their economic policies as pragmatic rather than ideological in nature; for example, the land tenure system gradually moved toward decollectivization as the government discarded some of its socialist ideological roots in favor of a more efficient approach (Location 2885)
  • Under Hafez al-Assad, the symbol and rhetoric surrounding Ba’athist ideology gradually crystallized around the objective of food security. This national priority was financed by rents from Syria’s domestic oil industry, which had grown significantly by the mid 1980s, and from the Soviet Union and Arab Gulf states in the aftermath of the 1973 October war. Interestingly, the Syrian state constituted a peculiar type of rentier state that allocated most external rents to the expansion of its agricultural sector (Selby, 2018: 9).5 In 1975, the state further consolidated its control over the agricultural sector with a law that gave the Higher Agricultural Council authority to enforce “a planned compulsory crop rotation” (Barnes, 2009: 553). This allowed the state to massively increase wheat production to the extent that it became Syria’s main crop and also to implement intensive irrigation to increase production yields and expand cultivated areas. (Location 2892)
  • Syria’s food self-sufficiency was predicated on intensive irrigation; however, that came at a cost of overuse of groundwater resources and the deterioration of soils.6 (Location 2905)
  • There are inherent security ramifications to this distinction. According to official narratives in the 1980s and 1990s, food security in Syria was matter of national security because it meant that the country would not be cut off from importing necessary resources for strictly political reasons.7 (Location 2941)
  • wheat is Syria’s main crop, and although it does not require irrigation, intensive irrigation had been deployed to the point of saturation to increase yields to unsustainable levels. This intensive irrigation helped consolidate gains and profits for certain members of society while oversaturation of the market resulted in price hikes as Syria became a net exporter of wheat (Batatu, 1999: 88). (Location 2996)
  • Until the mid 1980s, 90 percent of cultivated land in Syria relied on rainwater, and its irregularity influenced agricultural production (Hannoyer, 1985: 24). There was a marked decline in cultivation during the 1980s as a result of unmitigated groundwater use, low rainfall, and the spread of salinity from mismanagement of irrigation or poor drainage, especially in the Euphrates basin and the al-Ghab region (Batatu, 1999: 77). (Location 3008)
  • Syrian experts note that government policies encouraging the spread of agricultural land also encouraged the overexploitation of groundwater resources due to large increases in the number of wells (Qatna, 2009: 8; Seifan, 2009a: 12; Soumi, 2009: 5). Since the 1960s, many laws were devised to stop the proliferation of wells illegally dug by farmers. (Location 3044)
  • The use of groundwater from licensed and unlicensed wells has considerably increased since 1990 for several reasons. First, irrigation from these sources is relatively cheap, requiring only the costs of construction and a pump. Second, 75 percent of farmers run small operations of less than 10 ha that are easily irrigated using wells (FAO, 1997). Third, the central government has a low monitoring capacity because of bureaucratic proliferation and core–periphery divides. Fourth, farmers perceive water to be a free public good. These last two incentives for overpumping are the focus of the next section. (Location 3068)
  • section, I outlined how fuel subsidies increase the proliferation of wells by making pumping cheaper, but food and water subsidies also create incentives for farmers to overexploit water resources. (Location 3090)
  • The Syrian government therefore supported wheat producers through water subsidies but also through direct subsidies per ton of wheat, which gave farmers prices that were two to three times higher than international prices. In the late 1990s, this meant that Syrian farmers received somewhere between 360 and 661 USD per ton of wheat, whereas the price on international markets was closer to 200 USD per ton (Biswas et al., 1997: 26). Prices were maintained at this level to ensure that low-income groups from the agricultural sector retained access to the water market. (Location 3113)
  • end, landowners only paid 20 percent of the real cost of irrigation (Bakour, 1991: 62). (Location 3124)
  • Over forty years, the process brought together the ruling elites and merchant classes in four stages: (1) after 1970 with Hafez al-Assad’s Corrective Movement, which signified the move away from Salah Jadid’s leftist and progressive Ba’athist ideology of the 1960s; (2) after 1986 with the era of ta’addudiyya (economic pluralism); (3) after 1990 with the infitah (opening); and finally, (4) after (Location 3414)
  • Many of Hafez al-Assad’s early policies were still relatively socialist, while the economy was stronger. For example, the 1975 law that created compulsory planting guidelines of strategic crops was passed during a time of unusually high profit margins (Batatu, 1999: 47). (Location 3431)
  • Although the fuel subsidy-reform was supposed to take place gradually from 2007 to 2013, all fuel subsidies ceased abruptly in May 2008. Agrarian communities purportedly supported the measure, but its impact on farmers who needed fuel to operate their machinery was devastating. Only seventeen months after the subsidy cuts, the government launched a new plan with cash payments for heating gas (mazout) for about 1 million families in need (Syria Report, 2009e). However, the decision was still too late in support of an already decimated community in the northeastern regions. (Location 3511)
  • In the same year, the World Bank encouraged the Syrian government to pursue subsidy reforms before they could join the World Trade Organization, because the subsidies mainly benefited wealthy farmers and encouraged unsustainable water use and noncompetitive crops such as cotton (World Bank, 2008: 20, 49, 50). According to World Bank calculations, diesel price subsidies to agriculture represented 2.6 percent of GDP, cotton price subsidies represented 0.9 percent of GDP, and wheat price subsidies were entirely absorbed by the increase in the world price of the same crop in 2007 (World (Location 3522)
  • Although the traditionalists managed to include policies to support the poor and marginalized in the shift toward a social market economy in the Tenth Five-Year Plan of 2006–2010, in reality, the new businessmen won the battle for reform, resulting in an abrupt opening of the market without social safety nets. (Location 3538)
  • The reforms that eliminated these subsidies fell under the Tenth Five-Year Plan, and Dardari argued that the reforms were not undertaken because of foreign pressure but because of their social ramifications in Syria. (Location 3546)
  • Dardari blamed the relative failure of the social market economy model on the 2006–2010 drought as well as government mismanagement and corruption.24 (Location 3553)
  • Dardari claims that he wanted to postpone the reduction of agricultural subsidies until after the drought, but he did not have the authority do so. (Location 3556)
  • Kelley et al. (2015) argue that while climate change did not cause the drought, it increased its severity. (Location 3868)
  • However, according to Francesca De Châtel, the majority of evidence suggesting climate change caused the 2006–2010 drought is based on climate models, and that these models are inadequate predictors of drought (De Châtel, 2014: 523). Selby and his coauthors echo this critique by pointing to conceptual problems in attributing the drought to climate change. (Location 3869)
  • When the fuel subsidies were removed in 2008, diesel fuel prices rose approximately 350 percent from 7 SYP to 25 SYP. This price spike coincided with farmers’ increased need to pump water because of declining soil moisture and precipitation from drought, and farmers needed the diesel to run their pumps. (Location 3945)
  • Three other government policies also increased the vulnerability of agriculturally-dependent communities. In December 2000, Decision No. 83 dismantled state farms that had played a central role in Syrian agriculture for decades. Land was distributed in 3-hectare parcels of irrigated land and 8-hectare parcels of nonirrigated land to former owners, farm workers, and state employees. (Location 3963)
  • literature. The implementation of these laws also caused significant land speculation, driving some land prices over 1,000 times the original costs. The price increases and sales allowed landowners to expel farmers from the land that they had developed and cultivated for years, indicating another point of marginalization and dispossession of Syria’s poorer communities (Ababsa, 2015: 211; Selby, 2018: 8). (Location 3977)
  • Decree No. 49, passed in 2008, restricted communities’ ability to buy and sell land along the border (Ababsa, 2015: 216). Government approval was required for all land sale transactions, and while the policy technically only applied to border areas, in practice, the entire Hassake governorate was subject to these restrictions (Ababsa, 2015: 216). The decree was part of Syria’s larger Arab Belt policy, which promoted the Arabization of Kurdish-inhabited areas and frequently discriminated against Kurdish inhabitants (discussed in more detail in Chapter 4). (Location 3981)
  • 527). The highest estimate of migrants is 600,000 people, reported by the United Nations Special Rapporteur (Selby et al., 2017a: 238). (Location 4015)
  • Estimates from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) stated that 300,000 people migrated to urban centers, including Damascus, Aleppo, Hama, Raqqa, and Deir ez-Zor (Ababsa, 2015: 199, 209). Surveys by the United Nations Children’s Fund, however, reported that internally displaced persons were working in Tartous, Lattakia, and Deraa (Ababsa, 2015: 209–210). (Location 4029)
  • Critics of the migration-conflict linkage also note that the amount of internal migration pales in comparison with broader demographic trends that took place prior to the conflict. In the years before the uprising, Syria received 1.5 million refugees from Iraq and experienced a population growth of 3 million people (Selby et al., 2017a: 239). (Location 4036)
  • The overall loss of precipitation during the drought periods threatened the self-sufficient production of Syria’s strategic crops, especially wheat, forcing the country to import 1 million tons of wheat in 2007 and 2008 (FAO, 2003: 5). (Location 4488)
  • Both Drought 1 and Drought 2 had significant impacts on national wheat production in Syria. Figure 5.4 illustrates this trend, and, while data is not available prior to 2000 (or prior to 2007 at the governorate level), the impacts of Drought 1 are still evident as the yield per hectare in 2000 is particularly low at 1,850 kilograms per hectare (kg/ha). This inefficiency is only surpassed by 2008’s yield per hectare (1,440 kg/ha). (Location 4511)
  • The declining trend of Figure 5.8 has been attributed to a wide range of factors, including not only the decline in agricultural output but also increases in industrial activity (Nasr, 2009: 5). Some economists connect the decline in agricultural output to the drought while others are more partial to explanations located at the intersection of drought and government policy, including marketization, food security, and land fragmentation after Syria left the United Arab Republic in 1961. (Location 4757)
  • Understanding the role of agriculture at the local level is also critical, particularly in the case of the vulnerable Jazira region. Major transformations occurred from 2000 to 2009 in the agricultural sector, which gained productivity but lost large numbers of jobs, to the tune of approximately 20 percent of the total labor force (Aita, 2009: 3). (Location 4765)
  • The massive jump in emigration from 2005 to 2010 prior to the conflict has sometimes been attributed to Drought 2, though international sources have tended to confuse the number of farmers severely impacted by the drought with the numbers of farmers actually fleeing the region. (Location 4979)
  • an experienced Syrian water engineer blamed the government for failing to implement sustainable policies, putting in place only 10 percent of promised infrastructure without the necessary services for delivery. (Location 5021)
  • This approach crucially acknowledges that interacting environmental, political, and economic pressures occur in tandem with threats to water and food security and their ensuing migration and poverty, which in turn reinforce the original pressures in a recurring positive feedback loop. In this framework, vulnerability and resilience are parallel concepts that reveal how a lack of sustainability in combination with specific structural factors and inequalities threatens human life through the inability of systems to cope with unexpected change. (Location 5224)
  • Agrarian reforms enhanced living conditions in the countryside. However, the improved opportunities came at the expense of sustainable water use since large-scale irrigation in rural areas depleted groundwater resources and degraded soil quality, and, ultimately, resulted in human insecurity in the form of land-tenure disputes and population displacement. (Location 5244)
  • The analytical comparison of 1998–2001 (“Drought 1”) and 2006–2010 (“Drought 2”) based on information from government official reports, international academics and organizations, and interviews with Syrian experts and policy-makers supports the claim that climate change alone was not the cause of food and water insecurity during the decades prior to the uprisings. (Location 5263)
  • Corruption was a major obstacle to equitable and inclusive economic development in Syria. In the early 2000s, it was estimated that 200 billion lira were lost to corruption every year, amounting to 20–40 percent of GDP. While these factors might not have been sufficient to produce the Syrian uprising in 2011, the long-term structural seeds of conflict had been planted long before as a result of the government’s unsustainable practices. The severe stress on water and land resources magnified inequities and produced a ticking bomb waiting to detonate. Once (Location 5280)