Assad Expected to Win Fourth Term

Assad Expected to Win Fourth Term

Strongman Bashar Assad, who has already been in power for a decade, is expected to easily win a vote which the United States and its allies have already called a “fraudulent election [that] does not represent any progress toward a political settlement.”

The vote takes place as Government forces only occupy parts of the war-torn country. Generally, Assad’s control is limited to the Mediterranean coastline. As Assad and his “opponents,” Abdullah Salloum Abdullah and Mahmoud Ahmad Marie, campaign, Syria’s economy is in a tailspin. Before the war, the Syrian pound and U.S. dollar traded at 47:1. Today, that proportion is 4,000:1. The UN states that over 90% of children in the war-torn country need urgent humanitarian assistance.

Russia and Russian mercenaries have propped up the Assad regime. These two are currently working with Syria to finalize an energy deal and defuse a potential conflict with Turkey.

Ongoing and Shifting Syrian Civil War

Arab Spring protests, which toppled dictators in several countries and weakened Assad, sparked the current Civil War. But in reality, the country has been the center of conflict since it separated from the Ottoman Empire after World War I. More than likely, the conflict will continue. Only the names and faces change.

In 1916, World War I was raging in Europe and not going the Allies’ way. But the British and French were already dividing up the spoils of war. Regarding Syria, these spoils were the remains of the decaying Ottoman Empire. Two diplomats, Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot, agreed to split the Ottoman Empire’s non-Arabian Peninsula territories into spheres of influence. Sykes, the British negotiator, came up with an idea to draw a line “from the ‘e’ in Acre to the last ‘k’ in Kirkuk.” Picot readily agreed, and the two finalized their agreement in May 1916.

The Sykes-Picot line almost directly bisected what would become Syria. Today, Acre is on the Israeli-Lebanese border and Kirkuk is in Iraq. In other words, before it was even a nation, Syria was a house divided. Back then, the division was the French and British. As opposition grew to longtime strongman Bashar Assad, who inherited his position from his father, the two sides were Russian-backed government forces and U.S.-backed rebels.

At several points, it looked like this American-Russian proxy war would become an actual war between these two nuclear powers. Instead, Syrian government forces steadily gained ground and pushed the rebels into shrinking pockets.

This part of the war might be winding down, but new conflicts are on the horizon. Turks took advantage of the chaos and invaded northern Syria. As of May 2021, these forces are firmly entrenched in northern Syria and the Turks are even developing infrastructure there. Formal annexation might not be far away.

Meanwhile, on the east side of the Euphrates River, Kurds from neighboring Iraq are looking to expand their territory and possibly declare a new Kurdistan. Ironically, the Sykes-Picot agreement wiped out this country, making the Kurds the largest stateless people in the world. So, the wheel in the sky keeps on turning and we don’t know where we’ll be tomorrow.

Rebuilding the Country

Most of Syria’s people are on the west side of the River. That is where its two largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, are located. Rebuilding efforts are already underway here. The government is eager to get a head start on this project. According to most estimates, a Syrian rebuilding project might cost more than the Civil War which mostly leveled its infrastructure.

It is not easy to undertake massive projects, like dams and hospitals, while the situation is unstable and the government does not control vast swaths of the country. Frequently, both unarmed and armed contractors do most of the work.

Overseas contractors, like the ones covered by the Defense Base Act, often handle most of the supervisory chores at foreign worksites. Local workers do most of the heavy lifting, to pump some money into the local economy and to give neighbors an investment in the project’s completion.

Supervisor injuries are common. The United States has a well-developed worker safety system, but Syria has nothing. Therefore, construction sites in 2021 Syria are about as safe as American construction sites were in 1921. Making matters worse, the equipment that today’s construction workers use is much heavier, and much more dangerous, than the tools used in 1921.

Turks and Kurds are eager to disrupt such projects. The worse the government looks, the more their power expands. Normally, these foreign powers use local militias or bandits to destabilize rebuilding projects.

To keep workers safe, many construction firms must employ almost as many armed contractors as unarmed ones. A security fence and maybe a few cameras is enough to keep most stateside construction sites safe. But such measures do little good in a place like Syria.

Injury Compensation Available

Contractor injuries usually have wide-ranging effects, especially on the contractor’s family. Usually, the injured victim is the family’s primary, or only, source of income. If unpaid bills pile up as the victim convalesces, the stress makes it much more difficult to fully recover from a physical injury.

So, the Defense Base Act’s lost wage replacement benefit might be the most important available benefit. This benefit usually comes in one of four forms:

  • Permanent Total Disability: Usually, PTD injuries involve fatal accidents. The DBA usually pays these survivors a lump sum to make up for lost future economic contributions.
  • Permanent Partial Disability: If the permanent injury is partially disabling, such as an injured shoulder which does not fully heal, the DBA usually pays compensation based on the nature and extent of the disability.
  • Temporary Partial Disability: Some victims can work as parking lot attendants or other light-duty jobs as they recover from their injuries. If that’s the case, the DBA usually pays two-thirds of the difference between the victim’s new and old incomes.
  • Temporary Total Disability: Most DBA claimants are TTD victims. They cannot work until they fully recover. So, the DBA usually pays these victims two-thirds of their average weekly wage until their doctors clear them to go back to work.

The AWW is not just backward-looking. It is also forward-looking. Future deployment is a good example. Most private military contractors go from contract to contract. Usually, each new contract is slightly more lucrative than the last one, as the contractor gains experience. The AWW must reflect this future lost opportunity, if applicable.

For more information about DBA procedure, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.