Postwar Reconstruction Looms"
Passing the Torch to a New Generation of Syrians
by FRANKLIN LAMB
Few, one imagines, in the Syrian Arab Republic these days question the urgency and enormity of the task of reconstruction of their ancient country from war inflicted destruction caused by a carnage already more than half as long as World War I and approaching half as long as World War II.
For this ten millennium civilization and its thousands of priceless treasures, many partially destroyed, emergency efforts are needed today to preserve and protect the structures from thieves and war damage. Not many here would disagree with this priority of the Syrian government.
Historic sites damages or in danger include several among those listed on the UNESCO's World Heritage List registry including the Ancient City of Aleppo (1986), Ancient City of Bosra (1980), Ancient City of Damascus (1979), Ancient Villages of Northern Syria (2011), Crac des Chevaliers and Qal'at Salah El-Din (2006) and the Site of Palmyra (1980). Centuries-old markets and archaeological treasures have already been gutted by flames and gunfire in places like Aleppo and Homs.
Examining and discussing in Syria and Lebanon, some of the assessments of damage now being painstakingly documented, as well as pursuing some summaries of the data and analysis from on-the-scene government investigators, it is clear that plans for reconstruction at the earliest possible opportunity are being readied. Taking the lead, and poised to help, is the Syrian population as well as officials exhibiting pent up kinesis waiting to be released at the first sign of a credible cease fire so as to begin to rebuild their country.
Reconstruction of Syria will be aided by three regime reshuffles since the beginning of the March 2011 uprising, which has infused much "new blood' into the Syrian government. This process includes more than 20 changes at the ministerial level in recent months, in some cases replacing well entrenched and influential, if slightly fossilized, political operatives with overboard government roles from decades past. The bold reformist initiative is designed to reshuffle the corridors of power and have one claimed goal: To push and achieve reform.
More than a few officials have advised this observer of their deep convictions and their commitments for reforms which they note are spreading inside as well as outside government. "God knows we made serious mistakes and misjudgments and we will be judged by God for our failures. But in the meantime we need to reform for our people, families and for our own self-respect. And we are constructing massive reforms here in Syria which are not yet apparent but that will surprise many and please more. We are Syrians! We know what is right and that changes and reforms are overdue and what our duty is!"
Last month's most recent infusion of 7 Minsters, known for their competence not political pedigree, include several "independents' intended, according to one adviser to Syria's President Assad, to bring much needed new blood and energy to the leadership. Their mandate is to face the current challenges straight on while eschewing entangling perceived political obligations from the past. These "best and the brightest' are being empowered here to help rebuild Syria, it was explained to this observer by two university professors as being a government priority but without the American best and brightest noblesse oblige arrogance and fascist tendencies of the Bundy brothers and McNamara's "whiz kids' from the 1960's.
The most recent changes have included bringing in the following gentlemen (why no women!) who are known for their competence rather than simply as stalwarts of the ruling Baath party.
Qadri Jamil: Deputy Prime Minister
for Economic Affairs
- Malek Ali: Minister of Higher Education
- Khodr Orfali: Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade
- Kamal Eddin Tu'ma: Minister of Industry
- Samir Izzat Qadi Amin: Minister of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection
- Bishr Riyad Yazigi: Minister of Tourism
- Hassib Elias Shammas: Minister of State
One of the "new breed" of Syrian public servants is Bishr Riyad Yazigi, a non-Baathist, independent Member of Parliament, who appears beholden only to his vision of restoring Syria and its vital tourism industry, as part of rebuilding his country, and for which he was appointed Minister on 8/22/13.
Minister Yazigi, who I first met up on Mount Quisoun several weeks ago, is distinctively Kennedyesque in his good looks, charm, vigor, progressive ideas and charisma.