Threats by People

Dimension 15 of 17


We wanted to learn about threats from people to Syria in the next 20 years. We listened to a wide range of local, regional, and international actors influential in the life of Syria. We received a wide range of responses, for example: 

"1 [mass murder] and 2 [forced relocation] are happening now and might continue for the next 20 years. Syria, as a country, might not exist anymore." (233081)

"It's different in each region. It's 5 [social pressure] in the rump state, 4 [legal discrimination] the Turkish border, Aleppo is 2 [forced relocation], 3 [violent harassment] is the central part, Homs is 1 [mass murder]. Bashar's failing is not being as ruthless as his father. (239311)
"From outsiders and insiders like IS. There are a lot of casualties. When they capture territories they do retaliatory executions. It's true of Hezbollah, the Kurds, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the regime. It's much more than accidental casualties. It is apparent, intentional killing of civilians, i.e. murder." (239312) 

"The real threat to Syria is from the Assad regime. Had they accepted the opinion of its own people we would not be in the situation we are now. The dislocation of people is the policy of the regime." (231641)

"People being forced from south to north. It's not really ethnic. It's political. Going forward how much worse can it get? Thinking about retribution can make for sleepless nights." (233911)
"Ethnic cleansing and forced deportation will continue. Idlib is probably next. Despite the current ceasefire the government will probably try to advance militarily." (232272)
"Hopefully [forced relocation] will decrease as the civil war passes." (233121) 

Why do imminent threats to Syria 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. 


ABOUT INCA DIMENSION #15:

THREATS BY PEOPLE


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Threats to Syria by people is the 15th of 17 dimensions in 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.

Threats by people is important because, like any threat, they compel a response. Every threat the country reacts to is an opportunity to strengthen Syrian national identity, sovereignty, and national capacity. Based on the 8-level hierarchy described in the question below, participants from 27 influential organizations assessed threats to Syria by people at different levels at this time in history, from as low as Level 1 to as high as Level 6. (At the bottom of this page, you can read statements interview participants gave to support their assessments.)


The Question

Other countries or non-state actors (international governmental organizations, businesses, NGOs, terrorists) can help a country, or damage it. Also, a country’s own government, or subgroups of its citizens can threaten the survival, stability, and development of the country as a whole. Whether from outside or inside the country, we are looking at threats from people. In the next twenty years, which level best describes how serious the threat is to the population, by outsiders, the government, or other residents? (If two seem equal, name the higher level.)

1.     Mass murder of part of the population.

2.     Ethnic cleansing or forced deportation of part of the population without mass killings.

3.     Violent harassment, but not killing or forced relocation, of part of the population.

4.     Nonviolent legal discrimination against part of the population. Strong informal pressure against social diversity—by other countries through sanctions, boycotts, or travel restrictions; or by the government.

5.     Significant pressure by outsiders or the government to conform to certain expectations.

6.     No threat to citizens, but the country would not help any other country, if the people of that country were attacked or there was a civil war in that country.

7.     No threat to citizens, and if the people of a closely allied country were attacked or a civil war emerged, the country would respond as if the threat were to itself.

8.     No threat to citizens, and if the people of any other country were attacked or a civil war emerged, the country would respond as if the threat were to itself.



DEVELOPMENT IN SYRIA


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WORK WITHIN SYRIA & THREATS BY PEOPLE

The thick brown line represents violent harassment of the population

The thick brown line represents the most conservative assessment of Syria's capacity to respond to threats by people, in which the violent harassment of parts of the population is tolerated. Any organization operating in Syria should be aware of the danger of violent harassment as a tolerated tool to express opposition to the work of the organization. 


STRENGTHENING SYRIAN CAPACITY TO HANDLE THREATS BY PEOPLE ONE STEP AT A TIME

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. An example is of initiatives that seek to create a society free of violent harassment by the government or other residents (level 3). If implemented in Syria, this attempted leap from a society in which large citizens and residents are being killed by the government, opposition groups, ISIL, and foreign air strikes (level 1) to one in which citizens have legal and practical protections against violent harassment (level 3) would be too much to do at once! Without first establishing a society that is free from massacres (level 1) and forced relocations (level 2), efforts to stop violent harassment would not be effective.

The vulnerability of post-invasion Iraqi society to human threats was similarly underestimated in the spring of 2003, as the United States and its partners operated on the faulty assumption that Iraq could successfully selectively filter the influence of foreign powers—including U.S. and its coalition allies (level 6).  As a result, inappropriate practices and projects drove confusion and corruption into Iraqi society with disastrous results.

The overall failure to recognize the human threats facing Iraq following the invasion in 2003 was implicit in the way that U.S. and coalition forces attempted to reconstruct the country. Assuming that the country was capable of pushing back against poorly designed foreign projects (level 6), reconstruction was carried out with the unrealistic vision of creating a country that would be capable not only of caring for its citizens, but also of transforming other countries in the region into stable and secure actors that would share its institutions and values (a level 7 goal). As our INCA platform reveals, however, this assumption was misguided and led to waste, corruption, and confusion. Reconstruction programs regularly overreached due largely to Iraq’s inability to effectively manage outside pressures by donor countries. Without incorporating Iraqi knowledge, well-intentioned projects were ineffective or ultimately harmed the country in some way. It was from this failure that Sovereignty First’s built its shared information platform and these INCA dimensional analyses, to make it easier for those who would help a country to listen effectively to counter-parties and Iraqi "ground truth" while choosing, designing, and implementing projects.

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)

Note: These statements were given by participants as rationale for their decision to gauge Syrian capacity at their stated level. 

The Range

Lowest Score: 1

Highest Score: 6

1. Mass murder of part of the population.

"1 [mass murder] and 2 [forced relocation] are happening now and might continue for the next 20 years. Syria, as a country, might not exist anymore." (233081

"It's different in each region. It's 5 [social pressure] in the rump state, 4 [legal discrimination] the Turkish border, Aleppo is 2 [forced relocation], 3 [violent harassment] is the central part, Homs is 1 [mass murder]. Bashar's failing is not being as ruthless as his father. (239311)

"From outsiders and insiders like IS. There are a lot of casualties. When they capture territories they do retaliatory executions. It's true of Hezbollah, the Kurds, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the regime. It's much more than accidental casualties. It is apparent, intentional killing of civilians, i.e. murder." (239312) 

2. Ethnic cleansing or forced deportation of part of the population.

"The real threat to Syria is from the Assad regime. Had they accepted the opinion of its own people we would not be in the situation we are now. The dislocation of people is the policy of the regime." (231641)

"People being forced from south to north. It's not really ethnic. It's political. Going forward how much worse can it get? Thinking about retribution can make for sleepless nights." (233911)

"Ethnic cleansing and forced deportation will continue. Idlib is probably next. Despite the current ceasefire the government will probably try to advance militarily." (232272)

"Hopefully [forced relocation] will decrease as the civil war passes." (233121) 

3. Violent harassment of part of the population.

"I want to think we will reach a level of peace and stability. 7 [2] and 8 [1] are already happening." (235781)
"I would choose #7 [#2] except it's not technically ethnic cleansing. It's political cleansing." (236592)

4. Legal discrimination against part of the population. Strong informal pressure against social diversity—by other countries through sanctions, boycotts, or travel restrictions; or by the government.

No Statements

5. Significant pressure by outsiders or the government to conform to certain expectations.

"Threats do exist. There is always struggle between countries causing threats within the country. It will always be there, political, economic, . . . They exist between all countries. It's obvious the developed countries have interests in Syria. It's about the energy sector." (233881)
"There are many challenges for the coming period, especially the challenge of state-building. If it stabilizes then falls apart again the EU may not be interested in help. It may make things worse. Like in Iraq. It calmed a bit then reignited worse than before." (238631)

6. No threat to citizens, but the country would not help any other country, if the people of that country were attacked or there was a civil war in that country.

"Within 20 years we would not be able to help another country." (238341)


Round 2 Statements (Aug 2016 - Oct 2016)

Note: These statements were given by participants as rationale for their decision to gauge Syrian capacity at their stated level. 

The Range 

Lowest Score: 1

Highest Score: 5

1. Mass murder of part of the population.

"Russia is taking over the country." (221211)

2. Ethnic cleansing or forced deportation of part of the population.

"Ethnic cleansing hasn't happened yet technically, but emptying entire cities is at least political cleansing. In the end Syria may not be as diverse as it was. Fears of mass retaliation are well founded, based on the degree of hatred more than specific evidence, especially the longer the conflict drags on." (223911)

3. Violent harassment of part of the population.

No Statement

4. Legal discrimination against part of the population. Strong informal pressure against social diversity—by other countries through sanctions, boycotts, or travel restrictions; or by the government.

No Statement

5. Significant pressure by outsiders or the government to conform to certain expectations.

"The support of Russia and even the United States to certain groups, and their disagreements. The Sunni-Shia conflict is another aspect." (228631)
“It isn't real that outsider invaders will attack at any time. … Israel is not a threat. It is a tool to impose fear." (221641)
"The only thing that can threaten a country is another country. Even terrorists are controlled by countries. ISIL's threat to Syria is nothing compared to Russia's…. 95% of the bombing is directed to civilians, not terrorists. Only the Free Syrian Army is standing up for the people, because they fight on all fronts, against the government, terrorists, and outside countries." (222172)


Round 1 Statements (Jan 2016 - May 2016)

Note: These statements were given by participants as rationale for their decision to gauge Syrian capacity at the level they did for this dimension. 

The Range

Lowest Score: 1

Highest Score: 2

1. Mass murder of part of the population.

"There are threats from Turkey to the Kurds, the Kurds to the Arabs, ISIL to everyone, Sunni to Alawi and their neighbors." (215261)
"Other groups from outside (al-Qaida, ISIL) are killing the population. Assad has said it is permissible to kill anyone outside his area of control." (2138811)

2. Ethnic cleansing or forced deportation of part of the population.

No Statements