In Focus | The impact of forest fires in the Syrian coast on the regime
On October 13, 2020, Bashar al-Assad visited several villages and towns along the Syrian coast following the forest fires that extended to over 26 locations in the region. The fires are an extension of those that broke out in September which the Syrian regime was unable to extinguish.
This unprecedented proliferation in fires may cause great damage to the ecosystem in Syria due to the possible loss of rare tree species and large areas of natural forest. The fires negatively impact the region economically as it weakens the population’s ability to access sources of employment in the tourism, agriculture or fishing sectors.
The Syrian regime is unable to extinguish the fires due to the lack of necessary infrastructure to intervene in this type of disaster. The regime has systematically ignored the issue of forest fires for over 50 years and implemented no measures to ensure the preservation of forest wealth due to its focus on military spending.
It must be noted that Russia and Iran did not participate in operations to extinguish the fires due to the high cost of such operations. The only exception Russia undertaking firefighting operations close to military locations such as the Khmeimim base. The harsh geographical terrain and the limited and basic equipment available mean that a Russian intervention would require Russia bringing over fire brigades from its territory or in cooperation with Greece and Turkey.
It is possible that Bashar al-Assad has genuine concerns about the fire undermining the regime’s position given the regime’s inability to protect and care for the local population. The forest fires have the potential to destabilize the regime by countering propaganda about internal cohesion and opening up the possibility of increased competition over sources of power and wealth within the branches of the Syrian regime.
Unit of Analysis and Thinking - Jusoor for Studies
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