In Venezuela we have experienced the direct offensive of U.S. unilateral coercive measures (UCM) first hand. But we are not the only country that has been a victim of the financial-economic-commercial criminality of the United States and its “partners”, nor the last to suffer its consequences.
Other peoples in their struggle of resistance against the Anglo-Zionist empire can attest to the onslaught produced by Washington’s misnamed “sanctions”, providing numerous testimonies, perspectives and facts that contribute to a better understanding of the enemy’s economic weapons.
Undoubtedly, the economic and social impact of the financial wars is felt by the population and the country as a whole. In the case of Venezuela, the blockade and the oil embargo have significantly destroyed the oil industry and its income. The consequences on society are well known at the national and international level, even though the United States denies any negative impact with supremacist excuses.
The Syrian case can be understood as a mirror of the Venezuelan one. British journalist and photographer Vanessa Beeley is a journalist and photographer currently in Damascus, the Syrian capital, from where she has covered the war against the Arab Republic and its people. In a panel discussion sponsored by the International Manifesto Group last Sunday, June 13, “The Violence of Nonviolence. A Geopolitical Analysis of the Social and Health Effects of Sanctions,” she took stock of U.S. MCUs on the Syrian people that are worth calling attention to.
Beeley argues that “sanctions” are “more devastating than military war” when “used as a brutal and vindictive component of a neocolonialist hybrid war strategy.” And they become “weapons of mass destruction” if “global superpowers target nations like Syria,” attacked by terrorist and mercenary armies fomented by the U.S. and NATO. The proxy army factor against the Arab authorities and the Syrian people cannot be underestimated. “It is almost impossible,” she says, “to talk about the economic sanctions against Syria in isolation.
“I would argue that the effects of the US, UK, EU, Arab League and Turkish sanctions are equivalent to the infrastructure destruction campaign carried out by the illegal armed groups funded and armed by the US regime change coalition and promoted by its aligned media. Terrorism can be defined as the ‘unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property in order to coerce or intimidate a government or civilian population in furtherance of political or ideological objectives,'” the journalist says.
It is an act of “economic terrorism”, as it “denies the means of livelihood to innocent civilians in order to force an entire nation into submission to foreign agendas in the region”, she continued, “The destruction of vital civilian infrastructure is an act of war, the withholding of essential resources or the occupation of such resources is also a war crime.”
In her opinion, the Atlantist coalition has committed genocide in Syria, under the terms of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article II, point c: “Intentionally inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.
One would do well to recall the words of US diplomat James Jeffrey for Syria, who not only described Al Qaeda as a “US asset” in Syria for an interview with Al-Monitor, but spoke openly about the misery brought by the “sanctions” to the Syrian people:
“And, of course, we’ve increased the isolation and sanctions pressure on Assad, we’ve held the line on the lack of [infrastructure] reconstruction assistance, and the country is desperate for it. You see what happened to the Syrian pound, you see what happened to the whole economy. So, it’s been a very effective strategy.”
Reports on the damage to key sectors of Syrian society give an indication of how there is a correlation between the issuance of MCU and the terrorist and U.S. occupation attacks that infringe on the sovereignty and socioeconomics of the Arab Republic, directly impacting the quality of life of the population and their fundamental human rights, as outlined by Beeley.
Executive Order 13582 of August 18, 2011 “prohibits the importation of petroleum or petroleum products of Syrian origin, and prohibits Americans from engaging in transactions involving Syrian petroleum or petroleum products.”
From 2011 to 2014 the oil revenue loss is estimated at about $21 billion for Syria.
When the Islamic State (ISIS) occupied the oil-rich northeastern region of Syria, it was stealing daily revenues of $3 million. Those who now benefit from that revenue are the separatist Kurds protected by the Pentagon and NATO. The U.S. also steals the area’s oil resources through Delta Crescent Energy, established during the Trump administration. Al Qaeda receives stolen crude and markets it in Turkey with the company WATAD.
Says Beeley: “Effectively, the US or its proxies seized Syrian oil fields early in the conflict, this has provided revenue for the various contra forces under their control (including ISIS), which has allowed them to steal more resources, ethnically cleanse areas of Syria and destroy infrastructure while increasing sanctions and imposing a brutal blockade on the Syrian people, most of whom live in areas under the protection of the Syrian government.”
“A large number of factories have been forced out of existence” due to the financial-economic-commercial blockade, which has been escalating over time, impacting production. “The cause is the lack of fuel, electricity, spare parts for machinery (most of which came from the EU),” says the journalist.
A report by the Aleppo Chamber of Commerce in 2015 detailed the total closure of 26,000 factories, the partial closure of 17,000 and the suspension of production in 50,000 factories. At the same time, armed groups, including the Nusra Front and ISIS, invaded the industrial areas of Aleppo and dismantled thousands of factories, destroyed power grids, railroads, etc., and to provide commercial income in Turkey, many factories were re-established inside Turkey. In October 2015, the U.S. coalition bombed the Aleppo thermal power plant, then under ISIS control, ensuring a total blackout in Aleppo and the surrounding countryside,” recounts the also British photographer.
Vanessa Beeley states that this sector “has been affected by rising gasoline costs and the lack of machinery parts due to sanctions. Some of these olive and cotton growing areas have been taken over by Arama groups who, again, benefit from the illegal trade of the food sites via Turkey and Iraq. In 2020, large tracts of Syrian wheat and forestry crops were deliberately burned.”
Food has been a military target for the US, a genocidal tactic by any measure: “The US coalition,” Beeley continues, “dropped thermal balloons on wheat crops in the northeast, the Kurds took control of wheat storage facilities and restricted supplies to Damascus for the Syrian people. Bread queues became a familiar scene across Syria and food prices skyrocketed. Syria is being driven to dangerous food insecurity by a combination of military and economic force, both backed by the same criminal alliance led by the United States and the United Kingdom.”
The relationship between oil, the “sanctions”, the blockade and the increase of food insufficiency in Venezuela is more than evident.
Clara Sánchez explains it in her latest article https://t.co/tWmJbOVMUQ pic.twitter.com/tKKTzO0HQxZ
– MV (@Mision_Verdad) October 15, 2020
As has also been reported from Venezuela, the “humanitarian sector” is not exempt from the blockade, contrary to what is commonly stated by U.S. spokespersons. Also a photographer in Damascus, she provides the following details:
“Almost 50% of Syrian hospitals have been destroyed during the war against this country, many were occupied by terrorist groups and converted into military centers, Sharia courts, detention and torture centers, for example, the Eyes and Children’s Hospital in eastern Aleppo, which was finally liberated by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies in December 2016. An estimated 20 pharmaceutical factories were also destroyed or occupied during the terrorist invasions. Syria had a fleet of 703 ambulances in 2011, 350 have been destroyed or stolen by the armed groups or their Western-backed auxiliaries: the White Helmets. The remaining hospitals and equipment suffer from a lack of up-to-date technology, parts and maintenance because most of the hardware was originally supplied by the EU.
“This has led to shortages of drugs for chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and kidney disease. The health sector, which provides free medical care for all inside Syria, has always been a source of pride for the Syrian state: now 41 public hospitals and 621 medical centers are out of service. There are restrictions on the import of chlorine gas used as a water purifier, which has led to the spread of infectious diseases due to contamination of drinking water. At the same time, Turkey, a NATO member state, is deliberately depriving the Syrian people in the Hasaka region of northeastern Syria of water. Sanctions are again just one element of a war of hydro-hegemony waged by the U.S. coalition against the Syrian people, a war that impacts the health sector with devastating consequences.
“The most recent and savage Caesar Act sanctions introduced under Trump are preventing the rebuilding of hospitals and the repair of essential machinery. The closure of many rural hospitals is leading to inevitable overcrowding in city hospitals, resulting in delays in treatment and the spread of disease. Sanctions on the health sector are a deliberate and criminal targeting of the US coalition against the Syrian people. This violates all human rights conventions and must be condemned,” denounces Beeley.
The electricity and transportation sectors
The combination of proxy warfare and MCU have had a devastating effect on the electricity sector. The British reporter says that “there has been a drastic reduction in production which is adversely affected by the lack of fuel due to the occupation of oil resources and the impossibility of obtaining spare parts. Damages in 2015, due to power outages, were estimated at $16 billion, now in 2021 that figure will increase enormously.”
During the imposed war, armed groups, most notably the Al-Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda in Syria) “have systematically destroyed power plants, fuel depots, oil and gas pipelines, and stolen entire power grids to trade in Turkey. Entire railroad lines have been destroyed and melted down inside Turkey or sold for scrap. The Syrian transportation system is affected by lack of fuel, spare parts, and destruction of essential infrastructure. All of these have a debilitating effect on Syrian society and its functioning.”
“The education and tourism sectors in Syria are also being undermined by sanctions and the inability to rebuild and restart after the effects of the war,” Vanessa Beeley concludes.
Effects of economic terrorism against the Syrian people
The devastation of the Syrian economy by foreign aggression has been aberrant, an experience similar to that of Venezuela and so many other nations victimized by the Empire. It is worth quoting in full Beeley’s final conclusions, as they describe a scenario that resembles what has been experienced in our country.
“There have been huge price increases in food across Syria, around 300% in some cases. Fuel prices have skyrocketed, inflation is barely under control. This is creating food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty in 80% of the population. Wages have remained static, so that an average government employee earns 50 thousand Syrian pounds per month ($16 at the current rate) while, for example, 2 kilos of chicken now cost 20 thousand Syrian pounds. In the winter, many areas of Damascus received electricity for only three hours a day, in rural areas even less. The cost of heating fuel and cooking gas is now exorbitant: for a bottle of gas on the black market, 30-40 thousand, while there are long waits for government subsidized gas.
“There are fuel shortages, which has led to queues of up to two days to receive 20 liters of fuel. Lebanon has also run out of fuel, as it has been a major supplier of black market fuel to Syria. Unemployment is rising exponentially. Apartment rental costs have skyrocketed, while construction of new projects is at a standstill due to lack of materials, equipment and investment. Families are being torn apart as young people risk the dangers of illegal travel routes to the EU and beyond to try to earn money to send to their impoverished relatives in Syria. Sanctions are suffocating Syria and are being used to deliberately increase the suffering of the Syrian people who have withstood ten years of war waged against them by the US-UK coalition that guarantees their inability to get out of the quagmire of war.
“The US coalition is effectively pursuing a policy of collective extermination of the Syrian people by military and economic means. This is a crime against humanity, a war crime and a flagrant violation of the right to life and a dignified life. Syria is a member of the United Nations, these MCUs targeting the people of Syria are a violation of the UN Charter.
“Under the most recent barbaric Caesar Act sanctions, considered illegal by many experts, further pressure is being exerted against nations that would attempt to assist in the reconstruction of Syria. At the same time, the US, UK, EU, Turkey and Israel continue to support and promote terrorism in Syria and allow their proxies to plunder and pillage Syrian resources, further punishing the Syrian people. The sanctions against Syria are a malevolent attempt to bring the country to its knees after one of the longest and costliest regime change wars led by the UK and US failed militarily. The sanctions are not hitting the alleged targets, they are killing the Syrian people and they are killing hope; we must campaign against them to restore peace and stability in Syria and the region.”
Translation by Internationalist 360°
A geopolitical analysis of the social and health effects of sanctions, focusing on the cases of Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, Syria and Nicaragua.
Economic sanctions are becoming an increasingly popular foreign policy instrument in Western countries, deployed alone or in conjunction with military and/or diplomatic interventions to achieve strategic political and policy goals, such as ostensibly protecting individuals and states from the behaviour of wrongdoers. Because economic sanctions are considered less violent than direct military assault, they are often supported by many on the left and the peace movement, who reluctantly accept the policy as a necessary evil.
This panel, part of a broader series on sanctions, focus eson their public health effects, through an analysis of five case studies: Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Syria and Iran. All but one of these countries are currently under sanctions by both Canada and the United States.
– Sara Kendall is a medical doctor trained in Havana, Cuba, a community organizer, arts and social justice education facilitator and professional paramedic from Vancouver, Canada.
– Cira Pascual Marquina is a Political Science professor at the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela in Caracas and a writer and editor for VenezuelAnalysis.
– John Perry lives in Masaya, Nicaragua with a local NGO that promotes sustainable farming methods in the Masaya region.
– Vanessa Beeley is an independent journalist and photographer who has worked extensively in the Middle East – on the ground in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Palestine, while also covering Yemen since 2015.
– Seyyed Mohammad Marandi is an Iranian American academic and political analyst, Professor of English Literature, Orientalism and American Studies at the University of Tehran in Iran.
– Moderator, Claudia Chaufan, is a retired physician and an Associate Professor of Health Policy and Graduate Program Director at York University.