When Will the US Lift its Sanctions on Syria?
We deal in this article with an aspect that we have not previously dealt with extensively within the discussion of US and Western sanctions on Syria. This aspect can be condensed by the question bearing the title of the article: When will the US lift its sanctions on Syria?
Over the last few years, Kassioun has published many articles in which it explained the many aspects of the destructive effects of US and Western sanctions on Syria, and clarified how the major corruption forces and warlords benefited from these sanctions, as well as exposing the amount of lying and hypocrisy in saying that the sanctions target the regime not the people, and that they exclude food and medicine. At the end of this article there are links to some of these articles for those interested in referring to them. As noted above, we want to limit our task here in posing one question, particularly to those among Syrians who support and cheer on US sanctions on Syria: When do you think the US will lift its sanctions on Syria?
It seems that most of those supporting sanctions on Syria, particularly those under the Caesar Act, convince themselves that these sanctions are temporary and will be lifted as soon as there is a political solution and political transition in Syria or, like the Americans say, when the “regime changes its behavior”. This is certainly what US officials try to imply when they talk about the sanctions, but do not actually say so, because it is not actually their intention and not the way they work to begin with. This is something they have tangibly proven, not only with regards to Syria, but in every sanctions program they imposed, from which we will take two in addition to Syria, and they are: Cuba and Iraq.
The Iraq Example
In the case of Iraq, the US has imposed sanctions since 1990 during the events leading to the Second Gulf War; the sanctions came “in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990”, according to the Office of Foreign Asset Control (the US governmental agency that administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions). Additional sanctions were imposed leading up to US occupation of Iraq in 2003.
The UN also imposed sanctions on Iraq starting in 1990 and were largely lifted after the occupation of Iraq in 2003. The US sanctions imposed on Iraq in 1990 are still in place. Do the supporters of sanctions on Syria need us to repeat the previous sentence again so they understand it? We will repeat it using the same expressions they themselves use: US sanctions imposed on the “Saddam Hussein regime” are still in place, 18 years after the “fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime”.
The Cuba Example
One of the longest standing sanctions program ever is the one which the US still has in place for Cuba, which has now exceeded 63 years, starting with the arms embargo in 1958.
The Cuba sanctions program is very much like the Caesar Act, where in addition to both being violative of international law, the sanctions on Cuba -- just like Caesar -- have secondary and tertiary effects, in that their reach goes beyond entities conducting direct transactions and trade with the Cuban government and Cuban entities.
On the 23rd of this month, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted, for the 29th time in a row, on a resolution demanding the end of the US economic blockade on Cuba, and the resolution passed with 184 countries voting in favor and two voting against: the US and its baby “Israel”. Despite that, Washington mocks the entire world and continues imposing its sanctions on Cuba.
During his campaign for the 2008 elections, former US president Obama talked about easing the imposed embargo on Cuba, which he supposedly tried to do, but it was played out that “the good intentions of the black president” collided with Congress, which did not allow him to do so. It should be noted here that polls had been showing increasing support by Americans for the lifting of sanctions, particularly among Cuban-Americans, so it was easy for Obama to use this issue during his campaign of elections lies.
What ended up happening is that there was partial resumption of relations between the US and Cuba (which was later retracted), and on April 11, 2015, Obama met with Raúl Castro, the first such meeting in more than 50 years (later Obama also visited his Cuban counterpart in Havana). There were also certain actions like easing the travel ban to Cuba, but the sanctions were not lifted.
The Syria Case
US sanctions on Syria date back to 1979, when the US designated Syria a “state sponsor of terrorism”. The US imposed additional sanctions on Syria in the early 2000s, and then dramatically expanded them in 2011, reaching their peak with the Caesar Act of 2019 (went into effect in June 2020). Despite all the changes taking place since the initial 1979 sanctions and up to now, including periods of overt convergence, all the sanctions programs imposed since remain in place and in effect still now.
Thus, as illustrated by the examples above including the Syria example, the US imposes sanctions under any pretext, regardless of its legality or even logicality. However, it is never clear when US sanctions on any country or entity get lifted, even when the reasons that allegedly led in the first place to impose them cease to exist.
There are those who are convinced that if there is a political process leading to political transition and a change of the regime, that this will automatically get the US to lift its sanctions on Syria, but as history illustrates from Syria and elsewhere, not only is political change not a guarantee of lifting sanctions, but it is almost certain that the US will maintain these sanctions regardless of whether or not a change occurs.
US Sanctions Will not be Lifted, but Will End
It is important to note that the state of unipolarity monopolized by the US for over 30 years, was what has enabled the US to impose these types of measures on different countries around the world and continue with these types of policies. Nevertheless, the changes that are underway in the international forces balance (and implicitly the resentment even by the US’s own historical allies about its “bullying” policies), mean likely an end of the mentality and effects of unipolarity, and implicitly coercive measures such as unilateral sanctions, are no longer far in the historical sense.
What we as Syrians must work on, in our pursuit of a comprehensive political solution through the implementation of UNSC Resolution 2254, is to fortify ourselves against US sanctions in the long term. We must start from a highly probable assumption that the sanctions will continue even after the implementation of 2254, which makes it imperative for us not only to demand an end to the sanctions, but also to work in order to reduce to the minimum limits our relationship with the dollar system, and end it if we can, while at the same time expanding matched relations with alternative systems. This itself requires the implementation of 2254 and starting the process of a comprehensive radical change, because the warlords and the major corruption forces on both sides, who control the reins of matters, are tied by an umbilical cord with the dollar, and they have no intention, desire, or interest in disengaging therefrom.
Other articles about sanctions:
US Sanctions: Defense or Offense? Which Regime Will be the First to “Change its Behavior”? – December 28, 2020
According to “Caesar”, Education is not a Humanitarian Issue – December 10, 2020
The Energy Crisis. Less than half of the Minimum Needs. Between Financing and Coping with Sanctions. – November 28, 2020
Humanitarian “Exemptions” to Economic Sanctions, Whatever That Means! – August 21, 2020
You Will Normalize… Or Else! – August 13, 2020
Gasoline imported to Syria is Triple the Global Price: “Sanctions’ Profit” Could Reach $290 Million Annually! – June 19, 2020
“Caesar”: A Quagmire and Political Deceit – June 18, 2020
Supporting Sanctions is an Aggravated National Betrayal! – June 7, 2020
Regarding “Caesar”, “RAND”, and the Northeast and the Kurdish-Kurdish Dialogue – May 25, 2020
Key Points for Deciphering US Behavior: The Northeast and Northwest, Sanctions, and Reconstruction – April 27, 2020
Sanctions and “Bullying”… Wheat as an Example – June 26, 2020 (originally published in Arabic April 20, 2020)