The Socialist Standard once carried an article on the anti-humanitarian nature of imposing sanctions upon ones perceived enemies and describes such policies as akin to medieval siege tactics that hurt the civilian population rather than those who hold political politics.
Such strategies still persist despite a record of santions failing to achieve their aims. The government of Bashar Al-Assad has endured a decade-long civil war that has created its worst food and economic crisis. Yet the Assad regime still stands. The imposition of international sanctions has failed to bring any resolution.
Joshua Landis is a US-based Syria expert who heads the Center for Middle East Studies at Oklahoma University said it was naive to think that sanctions will merely affect al-Assad and his cronies.
The lives of ordinary Syrians in regime-controlled territory has worsened immeasurably. The Syrian economy is in tatters. Syrians are grappling with hyperinflation, food shortages and joblessness with no end in sight. Queues outside bakeries and fuel stations have become the new normal while a shortage of electricity has adversely affected local businesses and exacerbated unemployment. When Lebanon went bankrupt last year, many Syrians who put their money in Lebanon’s banks lost their savings, too.
Until 2008, Syria exported wheat to neighbouring nations. But a drought in 2008 and a decade-long civil war turned Syria into a wheat importer. As production fell by half. Syria needs to import 1.1 million tons (one million tonnes) of wheat a year to meet its requirements, and most of it used to come from Russia. But in 2020, Russia reduced its supplies. The price of bread shot up. Syria’s northeast, the breadbasket of the country that produced 60 percent of the total requirement, is under the control of the Kurdish. US sanctions may permit limited types of trade but often deters banks, insurers and shipping companies. NGOs estimate that prices of most daily products have gone up 30 percent due to sanctions
“Syria is a small market and it is simply not worth risking a US government lawsuit,” said Aron Lund, a researcher at the Swedish Defence Research Agency. “By restricting Syria’s fuel supply through oil trade sanctions and by backing Kurdish control over the eastern oil fields, the United States hurts the Syrian economy as a whole,” Lund said. “Tanks need gasoline to wage war, but farmers also need it to run their tractors, factories need the electricity, and civilians on all sides of the war depend on cars, buses and trucks being able to deliver people and goods.”
US sanctions are intended to obstruct Syria’s reconstruction. Europe Union, too, has banned aid for Syria’s reconstruction. But reconstruction is a matter of the welfare of Syrian citizens. Authoritarian autocrats have never relinquished power for the well-being of their people.
As Lund explains, pretending like you can wreck the regime’s economic base without simultaneously hurting ordinary Syrians – that’s dumb and dishonest.”