The US has expanded the smuggling of Syrian wheat from illegally occupied regions amid an unfolding food crisis, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzia revealed on 25 May. Washington now plans to ship over 20 million tonnes of grain out of Ukraine also.
“The US began the great organised robbery in Syria five years ago,” says Dr Taleb Ibrahim, a Syrian political analyst and deputy director of the Damascus Centre for Strategic Studies.
“The regions where they are stealing oil and grains are the most productive parts of Syria, as an example the eastern parts of Syria where the US established the illegal military bases are providing Syrian people with 90% of oil products and 80% of grain. At the same time the US has imposed heavy sanctions on Syria to prevent the Syrian government from importing the most important necessities for the Syrian people, which is a war crime, like what had happened in Iraq, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, and other countries”, he continued.
The US and its proxies, the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), currently control most of Syria’s known oil and gas wells, as well as arable lands in northeast of the country.
“For 20 years, Syria had been the only Arab country that is self-sufficient in wheat and had a surplus to export, besides that it had the best seeds in the world,” notes Basma Qaddour, a Syrian journalist, co-author of “Voices from Syria”, and head of the news department at The Syria Times.
In 2007, Syrian wheat crops cultivated over nearly 1.7 million hectares produced over 4 million tonnes, according to Qaddour. “The country kept production above the need, maintaining a strategic stock for two years,” she adds.
However, in 2012, a year after the beginning of the war in Syria, the Arab Republic was forced to import flour for the first time, according to the journalist. Since then, Syria has turned into a permanent importer of grain. The problem has worsened with the US and its proxies’ illegal occupations.
Stealing Syrian Wheat
“The story of stealing the Syrian wheat dates back to the 2019-2020 season, when the SDF militia, upon direct orders from the US occupants, prevented Syrian farmers in the areas that are under [the SDF] control in the provinces of Hasakah, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, from marketing and selling their wheat to the centres established by the Syrian government [across the country],” Qaddour says.
According to the Syrian journalist, the SDF militia sold 800,000 tonnes of wheat from the 2019 season to traders and a private company in northern Iraq in coordination with the US military. Out of this, the US military “stole 100,000 tonnes and transported them to the US for cultivation there, since Syrian wheat is one of the best types of wheat in the world,” she continued.
To complicate matters further, she alleges that the US-led coalition burnt Syrian crops in order to raise the commodity’s purchasing price and force farmers into selling grain. As a result, the SDF militia traded Syrian wheat at $658.50 for one tonne, with the per-kilo price sitting at over 2,000 Syrian pounds ($0.80) which is “five times of the purchase price from the Syrian farmer months ago,” she says citing March 2021 local media reports.
“The Syrian economy is badly affected by the US sabotage as the [Arab Republic] now has to import 180,000 tonnes of per month, according to a statement made by the Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade Mohammad Samer Al-Khalil in a press conference in Damascus in February 2022,” highlights the Syrian journalist.
Ukraine Heading to Famine Due to US Policies
Ukraine may soon end up in Syria’s shoes, according to Dr Taleb Ibrahim and Basma Qaddour.
If the US maintains control of Ukrainian grain and the arable area contracts in the Eastern European state amid Washington’s fanning of the conflict via heavy arms deliveries, the Ukrainian people will meet the same fate, the Syrian journalist believes.
“Unfortunately, America is playing the role of an international thief with extraordinary military capabilities,” says Dr Ibrahim. “In Ukraine they want to threaten international security by admitting this country to NATO. They are making a very bad exchange of food for weapons, and weapons will cause more death and damage in Ukraine. In Syria they are playing a very dirty role: they talk about human rights and democracy, while stealing Syrian food and oil.”
On 30 April, the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) revealed that Ukrainian authorities had increased exports of grain, corn, oil crops and farm animals from the country by road and rail on a daily basis, even though Ukrainians are facing shortages of foodstuffs and a lack of crops for the spring sowing campaign.
Russia has reason to suspect that the grain is not being delivered to the “starving global South”, but is being transported to some European countries as “compensation” for the weapons supplied to Kiev by the West, according to Ambassador Nebenzia.
Furthermore, if Washington and its NATO allies manage to ship out a whopping 20 million tonnes of grain from Ukraine that may lead to famine inside the country, warned Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation Vyacheslav Volodin earlier this month.
Meanwhile, the US and the EU are pointing the finger of blame at Russia, accusing Moscow of the emerging food crisis. While Western officials claim that Russia’s special operation in Ukraine could lead to a global famine, they almost paralysed Russia’s food and fertiliser trade via severe sanctions, at the same time flooding Ukraine with weapons, according to Qaddour.
“The US and EU will never blame themselves for the food crisis,” she says. “They want this crisis to occur to blame Russia for it; otherwise, they will not hinder the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. The US knows well that its sanctions on certain countries and depriving them of necessary agricultural products kill people.”
If one continues to delude oneself into believing that the US and its NATO allies care about the food crisis in the Global South, one should look at how Washington has been starving the people of Syria via sweeping sanctions and wheat looting, according to the Syrian scholars.
“The Western countries are taking the whole world for an international famine, they do not care about humanitarian considerations,” says Dr Ibrahim. “The most important Western rational thinkers like Henry Kissinger said that Ukraine must be a neutral state and it must act as a bridge between the East and the West. The US and its allies chose to destroy Ukraine and to undermine international stability instead of looking for a new world order which must be established and based on cooperation and coexistence between all nations, this new world order will emerge soon after the war against Russia and it will be a multi-polar world.”