Lifting of US sanctions flies in the face of Syrian agonies
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Turkiye and Syria early on Monday, February 6, has so far claimed 35,000 lives, with approximately over 4000 recorded in the north of Syria.
Washington has temporarily eased its sanctions on Syria to speed up the delivery of aid to the northwestern part of the country, where thousands of people died in an earthquake last week. However, Republicans are pushing back against the waiver, saying that it allows "direct transactions with the Assad regime."
Following days of impeded humanitarian operations, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department announced on February 10 a partial six-month reprieve for the Caesar Act sanctions imposed by the US Congress on Syria. The move is supposedly undertaken to allow supplies for earthquake relief to enter the country.
The Treasury waiver was an unanticipated move toward aiding destitute Syrians while demonstrating at the same time that U.S.-imposed sanctions worsened Syria's precarious economic and humanitarian situation. These sanctions, in conjunction with the US army's unlawful occupation of Syria's energy- and grain-producing northeast, were intended to impede Damascus' efforts to rebuild the war-torn country and meet the basic food and energy needs of the people living in government-controlled areas.
Republicans opposed waiver
Even though the waiver has not made much of an impact on the delivery of aid, Republicans in the US Congress began resisting the White House's plan to lift some restrictions to speed up the relief operation in government-controlled areas after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks.
Just after the White House announcement, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Michael McCaul and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee James Risch released a statement criticizing the Treasury waiver, claiming that it authorized "direct transactions with the Assad regime" and that "it opens the door to the regime pilfering aid and will be abused to create a pathway for normalizing relations with the Assad regime." McCaul and Risch’s statement also argued that this license does not have to be valid for six months, and unlike the other disaster relief permits, it is valid for a longer time.
The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Turkiye and Syria early on Monday, February 6, has so far claimed 35,000 lives, with approximately over 4000 recorded in the north of Syria, which is already embroiled in an armed insurgency backed by International players. Because of the Caesar sanctions that Congress put in place in 2019, there are not many or any relief activities in Syria. In Turkey, on the other hand, the international community is more focused on helping people in need.
In one of its reports, Al Mayadeen stated that U.S. and EU sanctions had caused difficulties in the aid supply because foreign shipping companies refused to bring humanitarian aid into Syria. The channel says that many countries have asked Syrian airlines to transport tons of aid packages that their own planes can't deliver because of Syria's restrictions. The Syrian airline is reportedly unable to transport such a massive aid cargo.
Al Mayadeen further revealed, quoting Lieutenant Colonel Mohannad Jaafar, head of the fire department in Latakia, that the unjust sanctions on Syria directly led to an increase in the number of earthquake victims because it was impossible to get modern machinery and equipment used in such situations.
Syria has officially criticized the waiver, calling it an optical illusion designed to deceive the world. Syria stated that this so-called exemption did not help the overall flow of humanitarian aid from Western nations. The US's lifting of sanctions was described by the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Faisal Mekdad as an "attempt aimed at giving an erroneous humanitarian appearance" that did not speed up the aid effort.
In an interview with Sky News, the Special Advisor to the Syrian President, Bouthaina Shaaban, lamented that western nations are only sending aid to parts of Syria that are under the control of militant terrorist organizations rather than to the Syrian government, which is dealing with the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. The Syrian people will be able to take care of their nation if the US and Europe withdraw the sanctions, she continued, so all we ask of them is that they do so.
"Unfortunately, the West only worries about the areas where the terrorists and the White Helmets reside, not about the locations where the majority of Syrians reside." The majority of the funds and all of the equipment have been shipped from Europe and the US to Turkiye. "There is absolutely nothing coming from Europe to Syria," Shaaban told Sky News.
World decries Syrian sanctions
In an interview with the Russian news agency Sputnik, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) stated that despite waivers, the United States' severe sanctions against Syria were still impeding the humanitarian effort. The Under-Secretary-General for Operations Coordination of IFRC, Xavier Castellanos, stated that the harshest restrictions on the war-torn country caused a steep price increase in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes, which exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
As a result of the earthquake damage, Castellanos suspected that Syria would have more people buried than Turkiye, as reports indicated that a large number of people were still missing. "In Syria, I believe we will find a substantially larger number of people buried than in Turkyie. "After the rescue operation is completed, we will be able to determine what happened to the missing people based on the numbers," he told Sputnik.
Last year, an UN-appointed independent human rights expert urged the US to lift unilateral sanctions on Syria. She said that the sanctions were increasing the damage and trauma that ordinary Syrians have been going through since the brutal war started.
Ms. Douhan delivered a thorough information report on the disastrous effects that US-instigated sanctions are having on all facets of life following her 12-day journey to Syria. Due to their limited access to food, water, electricity, shelter, cooking and heating fuel, transportation, and healthcare, she claimed that 90% of Syrians are living below the poverty line.
According to Ms. Douhan, the imposition of unilateral sanctions on critical economic sectors such as oil, gas, electricity, trade, construction, and engineering has slashed national income and undermined efforts toward economic recovery and reconstruction, resulting in the destruction or severe damage of more than half of essential infrastructure.