Since the US implemented additional sanctions on Syria through a law known as the Ceasar Act last summer, Syria’s currency has plummeted, prices for basic goods have soared, and civilians have paid the price. According to the UN, the number of Syrians that are close to starvation is at 12.4 million, or 60 percent of the population.
The correlation between US sanctions and the suffering in Syria is clear. But in a speech to the UN Security Council on Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken failed to acknowledge US sanctions and called for more border crossings into the country to alleviate the suffering instead.
Blinken said: “The question before us is: What can the Security Council do to help the millions of Syrians whose lives hang in the balance?” His answer is to open more border crossings into Syria to allow the delivery of aid. But the obvious answer is for US sanctions to be lifted, something the Biden administration has the power to do.
UN Special Rapporteur on sanctions Alena F. Douhan explained to The Grayzone’s Aaron Mate how US sanctions are impeding humanitarian aid deliveries in Syria. Douhan said humanitarian organizations have difficulty obtaining licenses from the US to deliver aid to government-held areas. Even if the license is granted, organizations could have their bank accounts frozen for making purchases inside Syria.
Douhan has called on the US to lift sanctions on Syria. “People shouldn’t die, people shouldn’t suffer, and people shouldn’t fear whether they can survive after tomorrow, because they have neither medicine or food, because of the sanctions applied,” she said.
US sanctions under the Caesar Act specifically target energy and construction sectors to prevent Syria from rebuilding after 10 years of war. The Caesar Act made it possible for the US to sanction any person or entity — regardless of nationality — that is involved in reconstruction efforts in government-controlled parts of Syria.
Regardless of these facts, Blinken tried to take the moral high ground in his speech. “How is it possible that we can’t find in our hearts the common humanity to actually take meaningful action?” he said. “Look into your hearts. We have to find a way to do something — to take action to help people. That is our responsibility. And shame on us if we don’t.”
Besides the economic embargo, the US also occupies oil fields in Syria’s northeast, depriving Damascus of a vital resource.