Unfortunately, the death toll from the devastating earthquake that struck southwest Turkey and northwest Syria continues to rise. According to the latest figures, the number of those killed in both regions has reached a staggering 36,000, more than 100,000 inhabitants were injured. An unknown number of victims are still under the rubble. The evacuation will take time and effort. The disaster has affected millions of people and hundreds of thousands of survivors are now in desperate need of shelter, food and medical supplies. This is a humanitarian catastrophe, and it will take many years to fully understand its extent, as both countries are moving from rescue operations to reconstruction.
While nearly 100 countries helped Turkey cope with the disaster by sending search and rescue teams, medicines, and advanced sensor equipment, only about 20 states, the majority of which were Arab, responded to the tragedy in Syria. The situation there remains uncertain, complicated by years of civil war, economic sanctions against the Syrian government, and logistical hurdles. Five days had elapsed before humanitarian aid convoys began to cross the border between southern Turkey and the Idlib Governorate besieged by rebels. No one knows how many lives were lost there due to delays caused by political calculations and internal disagreements.
Of course, more lives would have been saved were if not for the sanctions imposed by the West against Damascus and the difficult situation in rebel-held areas. Martin Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, wrote on social media after visiting the Turkish-Syrian border: “So far we have let people down in northwest Syria. They rightly feel abandoned because of the international aid that never arrived.” In reality, his wording is somewhat unfair and incorrect, since it was not international aid that was not delivered to these areas, but only the aid of those states which definitely subordinated themselves to the US dictate. As for Moscow, from the very first days of the tragedy, it not only began to supply large-scale assistance to the Syrian people but also sent its very experienced specialists there. It is no coincidence that it was Russian specialists who made a significant contribution and saved many Syrians, whom we consider as ordinary victims of a natural disaster.
It took the US Embassy in Damascus a few days to demagogically mutter through clenched teeth that “Our sanctions programs are not aimed at humanitarian aid and allow activities in support of humanitarian aid, including in areas controlled by the regime. The US is committed to providing the immediate humanitarian assistance required to save lives and assist all affected communities in their recovery.” But all this is an outright lie, and Washington, as the American media themselves write, is very pleased that another natural blow has been inflicted on the legitimately elected government of Bashar al-Assad. The inability of the international community to provide vital assistance to the Syrian people, and above all by the so-called “democratic USA”, has revealed serious shortcomings of sanctions as an economic weapon used to achieve the dirty political goals of the West.
Political differences impede the delivery of humanitarian aid convoys to areas held by militants actively supported by the United States. The Syrian government is hesitant to allow the delivery of aid from its territory to the territory of the opposition. Similarly, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (a terrorist group banned in the Russian Federation), which controls most of Idlib, said that allowing aid to flow from government-controlled areas would be tantamount to recognizing the regime’s legitimacy. According to the militants and the Western forces behind them, let people die, but they will not accept help from Damascus. The militants agree to accept only aid moving across the border, but this has also raised objections from outside parties.
Moscow and Damascus want aid from Turkey to pass through one recognized border checkpoint, while the United States, as enfant terrible, for some unknown reason demanded that other border crossings between southern Turkey and northern Syria be opened for convoys with humanitarian aid. In this regard, Griffiths announced that some of these objections of the United States had been nevertheless removed under pressure from public opinion. The UN Security Council met to discuss the situation in northwestern Syria, and EU officials slowly, while earthquake victims were dying, discussed ways to lift some sanctions for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Damascus. Moreover, it had been agreed in advance that this would only happen in case of “Washington’s consent”.
Debates have resumed around the world about the effectiveness of sanctions and whether they bring results. Sanctions almost never help in achieving their goals, whether it is changing the behavior of the regime or bringing about regime change. They have never worked in Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela and Iran.
They have never been efficient in Iraq, although the then US ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright, cynically said in 1996 that “the price is worth it” when asked about the deaths of half a million Iraqi children as a result of her country’s sanctions. You just marvel at the malice of this woman, whose parents suffered during the Holocaust from the Nazi regime.
Sanctions never harm the leaders of the target country. But they damage the civilian population and undermine civilian infrastructure, as in the case of Syria, Iran and Afghanistan. The catastrophic earthquake showed that the Syrian government was ill-prepared to deal with the humanitarian crisis because of the civil war unleashed by the West. The US Caesar Act of 2019, ironically called the “Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act”, damaged the Syrian people and did nothing to advance the political process to end the civil war or rid the country of foreign interference and intervention by the very same American troops.
Last January, geopolitics expert Anchal Vohra wrote in an article for Foreign Policy: “Western sanctions that have banned reconstruction of any kind, including power plants and destroyed cities, have certainly exacerbated the suffering of Syrians and eliminated any chance of recovery.” This is the essence of the inhuman policy of the United States and its rulers: he who is not with us must die.
The catastrophic event that struck the population of Syria should provide an opportunity and the need to reconsider sanctions as a blind instrument that harms the very people it allegedly supports. And the US leads this shameful sanctions process; it is ready to destroy 8 billion people so that only one “golden” billion led by the United States could prosper. By the way, the same barbaric policy was applied to the destruction of the indigenous population – native Americans, whose remnants are driven to, and slowly dying in reservations. I have to agree with the statement of Saudi Arab News, which wrote that “The shameful reaction of the international community to the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria is a stain on the history of mankind.” True, there are as many such shameful spots in the history of the United States as there are stars on their flag.
Viktor Mikhin, Corresponding Member of the RANS, exclusively for the online journal “New Eastern Outlook.”