A UN special rapporteur on Thursday called for the removal of US and other Western sanctions on Syria as they are having a devastating impact on the civilian population and preventing the country from rebuilding after 11 years of war.
Alena Douhan, a special rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures, made the comments after a 12-day visit to Syria. There she found that sanctions are harming civilians in many ways, including by causing a shortage of medicine and medical equipment.
“In the current dramatic and still-deteriorating humanitarian situation, as 12 million Syrians grapple with food insecurity, I urge the immediate lifting of all unilateral sanctions that severely harm human rights and prevent any efforts for early recovery, rebuilding, and reconstruction,” Douhan told the UN Security Council.
US officials have been candid about the fact that the sanctions campaign against Syria is specifically designed to prevent the country from rebuilding. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last year that it is US policy to “oppose the reconstruction of Syria” until there is regime change in Damascus.
Douhan said that the “catastrophic effects of unilateral sanctions” are impacting people “across all walks of life in the country.” She said that 90% of Syria’s civilian population is living in poverty and have limited access to food, water, electricity, shelter, fuel, healthcare, and transportation.
On top of the sanctions campaign, the US also maintains an occupation force of about 1,000 troops in eastern Syria and backs Kurdish groups in the region, allowing Washington to maintain control of about one-third of the country. The area that the US occupies is where most of Syria’s oil and wheat fields are located, and the US is keeping the vital resources from Damascus.
The US also tacitly backs Israeli airstrikes in Syria and occasionally launches some of its own. Despite the dire humanitarian crisis, there’s no sign that the US will change the policy. The White House said at the end of October that it has “no plans” to lift the sanctions or end its military occupation in Syria.