A gunbattle between pro- and anti-government militia in southwestern Syria killed thirteen people and injured thirty others.
Fighting between the Falhout faction, an armed group backed by Syrian military intelligence, and local fighters took place on Tuesday night and lasted until Wednesday morning in the town of Atil, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
Tensions have been brewing in this area for some time. Most locals are Druze, which is a branch of Islam that also incorproates elemeents of Hinduism and mysticism. Since February, the Druze have been demonstrating against collapsing living standards and government corruption.
Syria: How We Got Here
Religious and political tensions are nothing new for Syrians. These divisions have been part of the country since before it became a nation.
In January 1916, World War I had dragged on for over a year and, since the fighting had settled into a stalemate on the Western Front, showed no signs of ending. That reality did not stop the British and French from dividing the spoils of a war which, at the time, the Allies were closer to losing than winning.
The burning question for Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot was the substantial non-Turkish territories of the Ottoman Empire. Without giving any thought to the people who lived there, Sykes and Picot drew an arbitrary line that bisected this territory. The British obtained a sphere of influence over the south, and the French would have free reign in the north. This line practically bisected what would become Syria.
Incidentally, this line also bisected Kurdistan, a semi-independent territory in the Ottoman Empire. Today, the Kurds are the largest people group in the world without a home country. Part of ancient Kurdistan is in modern Syria, a fact that makes a complicated war even more complicated.
If the Syrian Civil War ended today, the country would be split again, this time into at least three pieces. Strongman Bashar Assad and his Russian allies control most of the country. The Turks seem firmly entrenched in the north, while the Kurds and other rebel groups jockey for position in the remote east.
However, as the sudden uptick in violence indicates, the Syrian Civil War is far from over. No one is sure how many American private military contractors are in-country supporting rebel fighters. The actual number is a closely-guarded secret. Rather understandably, the DoD does not want to tip its hand as to troop displacements.
However, contractors are boots on the ground. That will remain true after the war ends, although the mission of American contractors will shift.
In terms of cost, the rebuilding effort could dwarf the war effort. The big difference is that, if it is done right, rebuilding usually has a happy ending. War cannot be done right and never has a happy ending. In both wartime and peacetime, contractors have a lot to do with the outcome.
Some of the largest construction firms in the world are based in the United States. Many large construction firms are based in China as well. However, when Chinese companies get involved in rebuilding projects, political strings are usually attached to the deals.
Usually, overseas American contractors are not involved in high level planning. Executives and accountants in cushy stateside offices usually handle these chores.
Onsite management is different. Contractors keep large projects moving forward. They also work around inevitable logistical problems which only onsite managers can deal with.
Managers are not just planners on the go. They are also, well, managers. They hire reliable and capable workers, which many times are in short supply. Managers also keep these individuals motivated throughout the construction project.
This contractor-local worker arrangement usually works well. Contractors are fully accountable not only to their employers, but also to U.S. laws. Local workers on large projects pump money into the local economy. Furthermore, this arrangement gives the community a stake in the outcome. That skin in the game reduces the possibility of sabotage and other problems, which reduces the need for security. More on that below.
Large projects, like hospitals, schools, roads, and bridges, are usually the first rebuilding projects. Refugees won’t come home until this infrastructure is safely in place. Until that happens, the instability and uncertainty continues to threaten the march toward normalcy.
In the United States, a fence and a few cameras are usually sufficient to deter petty thieves, drunken vandals, and other malcontents that threaten construction sites.
Foreign countries are different. Armed militants usually thrive on chaos. Additionally, public buildings are tempting targets for terrorists. Therefore, construction projects usually require armed security guards and 24/7/365 live protection. In fact, in many cases, a construction site in a war-torn country has almost as many security guards as construction workers.
Injury Compensation Available
The serious injury rate at construction sites is unusually high. Injuries like falls and electrocutions kill hundreds of workers at American construction sites.
Injury risk is higher overseas. Most countries, like Syria, do not have strong labor laws. In fact, many nations either do not have them at all, or do not enforce the ones on the books.
Normally, workers’ compensation provides financial relief for injured stateside construction workers. The Defense Base Act does the same thing for injured overseas contractors. DBA benefits usually include:
- Lost Wage Replacement: Usually, the Defense Base Act pays two-thirds of a victim’s Average Weekly Wage for the duration of his/her disability. Financial benefits are also available if the disability is permanent or fatal.
- Medical Bill Payment: Additionally, the Defense Base Act insurance company usually pays all reasonably necessary medical bills, from the first moment of emergency care to the last day of physical therapy.
The AWW amount is usually the most contentious issue in lost wage replacement matters. Prior wages don’t always reflect current or future wages. Construction managers in Syria understandably earn a lot more than construction managers in South Dakota. Additionally, the AWW is forward-looking. This calculation must include things like missed overtime opportunities and performance bonuses.
Insurance companies often challenge the “reasonably necessary” medical bill requirement. Physical therapy is a good example. Many adjusters use boilerplate tables to approve PT, such as three visits for a broken arm. However, not all patients progress at the same rate. So, an attorney must continue to advocate for them.
For more information about the DBA process, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.