Syrian Civil War Expands

An Israeli air strike on a residential building in the Damascus countryside injured two civilians, according to a Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) report that cited Syrian military sources.

The airstrikes targeted a farm in the town of Sayyidah Zaynab, south of Damascus, where Iranian-affiliated militias were reportedly located. A soldier in the Iran-backed Islamic Revolutionary Guard was killed as well, according to unconfirmed reports.

Previous Israeli airstrikes targeted ammunition warehouses belonging to Hezbollah and the Syrian military north of Damascus. Satellite imagery from a day later showed signs that the warehouses were heavily damaged in the strikes.

Syrian Civil War

The confusing and seemingly endless Syrian Civil War began in 2011 when protestors took to the streets against strongman Bashar al-Assad. These demonstrations were part of the larger Arab Spring protest that dislodged many longtime dictators in the region, such as Libya’s Muammar Khadaffi and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. But Assad remained in power, mostly thanks to his Russian and Iranian allies. In response to the crisis, Sadat ordered a brutal crackdown, which predictably backfired and sparked an insurgency.

After some initial setbacks, the Syrian Army broke the back of ISIS, the largest insurgent group, in 2017. Other rebel groups, including some U.S.-backed groups, kept fighting. Meanwhile, Turkey took advantage of the confusion and invaded northern Syria. Assad’s forces have been unable to retake that territory, mostly because Russia’s Wagner Group is no longer operating in the country.

A ceasefire took effect in 2020, but permanent peace remains elusive, mostly because so many groups have taken a bite out of Syria. Assad controls most of the West, the most populous region of Syria. Non-state forces, mostly rebel groups, control about a third of the country, mostly in the desolate north and east.

It did not used to be this way. Small farmers and herdsmen made a good living in Syria’s interior until a prolonged drought began in 2006. This drought, which broke in 2011, most likely contributed significantly to the current civil war.

But if you are looking for a root cause, you must go back more than another hundred years, to 1916, and the obscure (at least in the part of the world) Sykes-Picot Agreement.

The ill-fated Gallipoli Campaign had just ended. Winston Churchill, who was then a cabinet minister, advocated this strike against the “soft underbelly” of the Central Powers. The plan looked good on paper. The Ottoman Empire (which later became Turkey) was the weakest of the three major Central Powers (the other two were Germany and Austria-Hungary). But the British grossly underestimated the fighting ability of Johnny Turk. This miscalculation, along with some logistical and other problems, doomed the expedition.

Despite that failure, the British and French calculated (this time correctly) that the Ottoman Empire was on its last legs. Therefore, although World War I was still raging and there was no Allied path to victory at the time, these two great powers proceeded to divide the spoils of a war they hadn’t won yet.

The two negotiators drew a line in the Ottoman Empire’s Middle East territories. The French got everything to the north, and the British got everything to the south. This line roughly bisected what would become Syria.

In other words, since before its inception, Syria has been at war with itself. The current civil war is just the latest stage of an ongoing conflict.

Combat in Syria

Most American forces left the country after the 2020 ceasefire. But a few contractors remain to fight Assad as well as the remnants of ISIS. These contractors are almost exclusively in an advice and support role.

Advice is an extension of training, another important contactor function. But training is a one-time affair for soldiers, be they rebels or government security forces. Advice is ongoing and, more importantly, adapting. The Syrian Civil War is very chaotic. Players come and go. Therefore, the tactics that worked in 2023 might be useless in 2024. Contractors must do what they do best, which is adapt to a changing situation.

Support usually includes maintaining weapons and watching your six on patrols. Advanced aircraft and smart weapons give U.S.-backed forces an advantage over other groups, including Syrian government forces. If these groups lose that edge, bad things happen. U.S. law forbids contractors from directly participating in offensive operations. But they can defend themselves if fired upon.

Airstrikes often precede ground attacks. If that happens, more contractors will probably be seeing more combat duty in Syria.

Rebuilding Syria

Winning the war is an important objective. Winning the peace might be even more important. Contractors could be the key in both stages.

Rebuilding Syria will most likely be a Herculean task. Some pundits estimate that the rebuilding could cost more than the war. With a cost of $1.2 trillion and counting, that is a lot of money. Some contractors do the work, and others provide ongoing security.

Initially, rebuilding efforts focus on large capital projects, like schools, roads, and power plants. Most displaced people will not return home until these basic services are in place. Usually, contractors supervise the work, and local laborers do this work. This arrangement works well for several reasons.

Local workers are cheaper than contractors. At the same time, the payroll pumps money into the local economy. Meanwhile, the community feels invested in the project. So, people are less likely to participate in sabotage or other operations and more likely to narc on the people involved in these things.

These dynamics reduce, but do not eliminate, the need for armed security. Construction sites, and more importantly, construction workers, need close protection.

Injury Compensation Available

Lost wage replacement, which is based on the victim’s average weekly wage (AWW), may be the most important Defense Base Act benefit. Usually, an injured contractor is a family’s primary or only breadwinner. Since most families live paycheck to paycheck, a few weeks without income is financially devastating.

A student’s grade point average (GPA) is relatively easy to calculate. An injury victim’s AWW is much more difficult to calculate.

First, prior wages may not accurately reflect current income. Mostly because of the hazard, and because it’s so far from home, construction supervisors in Syria earn a lot more money than construction supervisors in South Dakota. Second, the AWW looks forward as well as backwards. If Tom’s injury causes him to miss performance bonus cutoffs, his DBA wage replacement benefits must reflect that loss.

The AWW is the key to determining temporary and permanent disability lost wage replacement. Most temporarily disabled victims receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the duration of their disabilities. Permanent disability victims usually receive AWW payments based on the nature and extent of their disabilities.

For more information about medical bill payment benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.