International Reputation

Dimension 3 of 17


We wanted to learn about Syria's international reputation. We listened to a wide range of local, regional, and international actors influential in the life of Syria. The statements we heard told the same basic story: 

"Syria has client-type relations with Iran and Russia. ("232272)"

"It has allies in North Korea, Venezuela, China, Russia, Iran, and Iraq and Lebanon to a degree." (236592)

"Assad has very few friends, Iran and Russia, with help from Hezbollah. He has some luck in that the removal of his regime is low on the priority list of most of the regional actors. The United States was interested, but found no regional interest. Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia want him in power more than the other states want to depose him. They want Assad gone, but are not willing to pay for it. Assad knows that if he loses he is dead, along with his family, the Alawites, and other minorities aligned with him. Russia wants control of Tartus, and killed 100,000 people to do it. While his international reputation is poor, those who support Assad have greater interests in the Sunni not succeeding." (239311)

What does the state of Syria's international relations matter in your choice of partners, the design of initiatives, and the implementation of those initiatives? Read more to find out. Scroll to the bottom of the page for more statements. 


INCA DIMENSION #3:

SYRIA'S INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION


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Syria's International Reputation is the 3rd of 17 dimensions of Syrian society that influential local, regional, and international actors assessed and discussed through 3 rounds of interviews and feedback, beginning in January, 2016. Taken together, the 17 dimensions of the x-axis offer a comprehensive, holistic view of Syria and its people. Interview participants assessed the capacity of each dimension, represented by the y-axis; higher levels indicate greater capacity within that dimension for Syrians to respond effectively to existential global threats.

International Reputation is important because outside investment—whether from private capital markets;  multilateral organizations like the World Bank; development funds like UNDP, DFID, or USAID; foundation-backed NGOs; independent businesses; or Syria expats—depends heavily on reputation. A bad reputation hurts investment. Based on the 8-level hierarchy described in the question below, participants from 27 influential organizations assessed the international reputation of Syria at different levels at this time in history, ranging from 1 to 6. (At the bottom of this page, you can read statements interview participants gave to support their assessments.)


The Question

This question looks at a country’s international relations through a simple lens of attraction or repulsion. Which level is the dominant mode of this country? The country’s relationships with other countries are generally:

1.     Negative.

2.     Negative with most countries, neutral with some.

3.     Negative with most countries, positive with some.

4.     Neutral with most countries, negative with some.

5.     Neutral with most countries, positive with some.

6.     Positive with most countries, negative with some.

7.     Positive with most countries, neutral with others.

8.     Positive.


READ CLOSELY, IMAGINE, LEARN

Read each statement below closely. Assume the person who wrote this is sincere; they believe every word. Imagine what life experience or background might lead a person to have this belief. Whether true or false, this person’s perception is a fact. To move forward on an initiative involving Syria's control of its borders, the reality of each perspective m




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WORK WITHIN SYRIA’S INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION

The thick brown line represents a negative reputation  

The thick brown line represents the most conservative assessment of Syria's international reputation, a negative one. Any organization wanting to invest in Syria should account for the possible lack of support from international partners, and the influence of Iran and Russia. 


STRENGTHENING SYRIA'S INTERNATIONAL REPUTATION ONE STEP AT A TIME

Aim just right: improve relations with one country at a time

The green area of the chart, from levels 1 to 2, indicates where projects to strengthen Syria's international reputation will be most likely to succeed, moving countries from no relationship or a negative relationship to a neutral relationship, as with a trading partner. There are many countries in the world who care very little about the conflict in Syria, or how the country will be constructed after the war. China is one, and China's Belt and Road Initiative is an example. 

If you aim too high: destructive overreach

Projects and agreements in the red area of the chart are overly ambitious and, at best, will be a waste of time. More likely, they will drive confusion and corruption into the country. 

International reputation in post-invasion Iraqi society was at a similarly low level in the spring of 2003. The United States, however, failed to recognize just how poor Iraq’s reputation was in the international community and instead enacted many programs based on the faulty assumption that its reputation was mainly neutral, but positive enough to give private firms the confidence to make long term commitments in Iraq (level 5). As a result, inappropriate practices and projects drove confusion and corruption into Iraqi society with disastrous results.

The most blatant overestimation of international confidence in Iraq was Order #39 of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the US-backed body in charge of the early stages of reconstructing Iraq. Assuming that Iraq’s international reputation was positive enough to attract significant private foreign investment, CPA Order #39 eliminated nearly all barriers to foreign competition and opened up the country to allow unrestricted foreign investment in, and ownership of, Iraqi firms. This order was carried out in the hope of creating generally positive relationships with most foreign countries (a level 6 goal), as well as stimulating the local economy. As our INCA platform reveals, however, this assumption was misguided and led to program overreach.  In fact, Iraq’s reputation among foreign investors was rather poor and those firms that did come to Iraq were insufficient to form a true competitive market economy. Instead, the few foreign firms that did come ended up creating monopolies or oligopolies across significant sectors of the economy, making it much more difficult for local businesses to enter the market. Rather than improving Iraq’s international reputation and creating a strong market economy, which was the intention behind the project, CPA Order #39 instead laid the groundwork for a predatory economy that damaged the country’s financial reputation further.

Background Reading

For more information on INCA for Iraq, read our retroactive case study here: http://sovereigntyfirst.com/iraq/report


Round 3 Statements (Nov 2016 - Jul 2017)

The Range

Lowest Score: 1

Highest Score: 6

1. Negative.

"Syria has client-type relations with Iran and Russia. ("232272)"

2. Negative with most countries, mostly neutral with others.

No Statements

3. Negative with most countries, positive with some.

"It's only positive with three, Russia, Iran, and Lebanon; neutral with Egypt; and they still have an Ambassador at the UN." (238631)
"The nuance is nation vs. regime. Many see this as a fight over the definition of what is Syria. Neither Russia nor Iran are probably comfortable with Assad. They just don't see a better solution. Lebanon sees Assad's actions against them, as in assassinating their prime minister, as very odd, a supposed nationalist aligning with the Shia. It used to be only Iran could move things in Syria until Russia joined in. Iran doesn't like chemical weapons being used in the Middle East, but they can't publicly reprimand Assad. Russia has vastly overestimated Assad's ability to govern effectively." (239312)  

4. Neutral with most countries, mostly negative with others.

"Positive with Iran and Russia. With others it mostly has to do with what they can get from it. Syria has no diplomatic relations with most countries." (230713)
"Practically now Syria is under the influence of Iran and Russia. Syria is no longer making its own decisions. The same is true for the Opposition. They have no say. They follow orders." (231641) 
"Assad is negative with a lot and positive with some. The same for the opposition. Each have their own backers." (233121) 
"Positive only with Russia and Iran" (234281) 
"The Assad regime represents the country. It's positive with Russia, Iran, Cuba, maybe Venezuela. The regime is the only legally recognized representative entity." (238341) 
"It has allies in North Korea, Venezuela, China, Russia, Iran, and Iraq and Lebanon to a degree." (236592)
"Only positive with a few" (235931) 
"Assad has very few friends, Iran and Russia, with help from Hezbollah. He has some luck in that the removal of his regime is low on the priority list of most of the regional actors. The United States was interested, but found no regional interest. Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia want him in power more than the other states want to depose him. They want Assad gone, but are not willing to pay for it. Assad knows that if he loses he is dead, along with his family, the Alawites, and other minorities aligned with him. Russia wants control of Tartus, and killed 100,000 people to do it. While his international reputation is poor, those who support Assad have greater interests in the Sunni not succeeding." (239311)

5. Neutral with most countries, mostly positive with others.

 No Statements

6. Positive with most countries, negative with some.

“It has allies in Iran and Russia. Alliances are based on interests and change.” (232631)


Round 2 Statements (Aug 2016 - Oct 2016)

The Range

Lowest Score: 1

Highest Score: 6

1. Negative.

    "It's not even positive with its own allies, at least the Assad regime. It receives orders from Tehran and Moscow. It's not an equal relationship. Bashar Al Assad is treated like a subordinate. The other side has failed to develop real allies. They have aligned with a number of models, but not cohesively among themselves." (223911)

2. Negative with most countries, mostly neutral with others.

No Statements

3. Negative with most countries, positive with some.

   "There are countries who do not take sides because of their relations with Russia, for example. China is keeping a balancing act." (222272)

    "Positive with Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Neutral with China and India, but they are not as significant to the region." (226591)
    "The country has positive relations with Russia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and representation in the United Nations." (228631)

4. Neutral with most countries, mostly negative with others.

No Statement

5. Neutral with most countries, mostly positive with others.

No Statements

6. Positive with most countries, negative with some.

   "Politically you cannot refuse to have relations with other countries. If you want a political solution for Syria you would like to have relations with countries that interact with Syria. [Better] to have closer relations with the ones that help, but some sort with all, because they will still have influence. Turkey's invasion was not to stop ISIL. It was to contain the Kurds." (221641)
   "The free regions are negative with Iran and Russia." (222172)


Round 1 Statements (Jan 2016 - May 2016)

The Range

Lowest Score: 1

Highest Score: 3

1. Negative.

No Statements

2. Negative with most countries, mostly neutral with others.

No Statements

3. Negative with most countries, positive with some.

No Statements