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Sowing the Seeds of Civil War: Regime Destabilization and the Adoption of Neoliberal Economic Policies in Syria

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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Syrias devolution into civil war over the last five years has left that country devastated. The conditions there raise several questions about the causes of pronounced socioeconomic stratification between the political elite and the average citizen, which steadily worsened after President Bashar al-Assad came to power in 2000 and eventually resulted in a civil war. This thesis asserts that the Assad regimes implementation of a wide range of liberal economic reforms, under the guidance of the IMF, ultimately contributed to instability in three main ways. First, these reforms disproportionately harmed the agricultural sector that employed the majority of Syrians. Second, these reforms cut social services in the overcrowded cities that were stretched thin by the influx of Iraqi refugees after the U.S. invasion in 2003, which also saw an increased migration from the agricultural areas when a severe drought hit the agriculture areas in 2006. Third, these reforms produced discordance in the power structure by changing the beneficiaries from the old Baathist guard to new Alawite crony-capitalists, which resulted in seething resentments. This research shows that the new elite competition along with the authoritarian nature of the regime prevented an appropriate response to the crisis eventually leading to violence.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Economics and Cost Analysis

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