The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) has reported the latest episode in the continued theft of Syrian resources by occupying forces, after locals observed 45 U.S. Army vehicles loaded with stolen wheat and oil, departing the town of Rmelan in the north-eastern province of Hasaka.
Almost identical scenes were reported on June 16th, after 32 U.S. vehicles and tankers, accompanied by U.S. backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), were witnessed travelling via the al-Walid crossing toward Iraq.
Amid ongoing acts of theft and sabotage of Syrian resources by U.S, Turkish and Islamist forces in Syria’s occupied regions, Western media outlets have chosen to frame the subsequent food and energy shortages, as consequences of drought, global warming and Assad’s policies, but never examining the reality on the ground.
Such crimes are exacerbating the already crippling effect of western sanctions on Syrian infrastructure and society. First imposed in 1979, sanctions against Syria were ramped up in September 2011, when the EU imposed an oil embargo on Syria, preventing exports of Syrian oil entering the union, which before the war stood for 20% of Syria’s GDP. Further impositions were made in February 2012 and December 2019, having great detrimental effects on the energy, financial and mining sectors.
Many commentators have designated the sanctions and continuing acts of theft and infrastructural vandalism as crimes against humanity, under terms of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Article II, point C, that is:
“Intentionally inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.
Despite the tired western depictions of Bashar al-Assad as the sole propagator of Syria’s perils, analysis on the effects of sanctions tell quite a different story. In May, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that in the case of Syria’s food shortages, “the high cost of fuel and its widespread shortage have constrained the use of irrigation, especially during the crucial development stages for the wheat crop in the spring”.
The report also spoke of Syria’s economic crisis increasing production costs and hampering “the access of farmers to agricultural inputs, which are mostly imported”. Damascus based journalist Vanessa Beeley, has detailed that U.S. forces and militia groups in Syria currently occupy an area estimated as accountable for 70% of Syria’s wheat production.
In addition to the continued theft of Syrian food supplies, there have also been acts of sabotage. In May last year, SANA also reported from witness testimonies, that a U.S. Apache helicopter dropped thermal balloons on wheat fields in Adla village in the Shaddadi countryside, creating fires that burned over 200 dunums (200,000 square metres) of wheat fields.
Beeley also notes that combatting the intentional destruction of Syrian crops is also hindered by sanctions, as the theft of machinery by militia groups has meant that: “Under the sanction regime imposed by the U.S. Coalition, it has been impossible for the authentic Syria Civil Defence to replace the stolen equipment”.
In addition to catastrophic effects of sanctions and occupation on Syria’s agricultural sector, the occupation of oil fields is having effects beyond simply impeding the country’s economic functions. Since the conflict’s advent, U.S. backed militia groups, including ISIS, have occupied Syria’s oil fields, which provide a source of funding and fuel for their military operations. The U.S. is also engaged in the theft of Syrian oil through the ‘Delta Crescent Energy’, who secured a deal for extraction with Kurdish authorities in north-eastern Syria during the Trump administration.
Washington’s NATO ally Turkey is also engaged in hijacking water supplies from the river Euphrates and river Tigris, depriving Syrians with access to drinking water and water needed for irrigation, exacerbating the already aforementioned obstacles to agricultural self-sufficiency.
The continued blockade against Syria, perhaps echoes most closely the crimes committed by imperial powers against Iraq following the first Gulf War. The UN embargo on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq prohibited the importation of vital agricultural and medical equipment, including cattle semen and crucial painkillers, resulting in the death of half a million Iraqi children in eight years, a price then U.S. Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, felt “was worth it”.
Sanctions and sabotage as a form of warfare continue to go overlooked in the West. Enforced under the premise of weakening an unfavourable government, or more accurately figurehead, time and time again they resemble a tactic of collective punishment against an impoverished people, still reeling from the traumas of violent conflict fomented by the same imperial powers that now deny their right to life.
Far from documenting the realities endured by the Syrian people, western media continues to function as it has done throughout a decade of conflict in Syria, maintaining a twisted narrative, in which Assad is evil personified and guilty of war crimes against his people, and radical Islamist proxy militia’s created and funded by the CIA, MI6 et al, and responsible for hideous atrocities in their quest to impose Sharia law on a secular nation, are simply “moderate opposition”, or noble “rebels”.
Continued sanctions and sabotage against Syria constitute a crime against the Syrian people, and against humanity. The wielding of food insecurity as a weapon against the Syrian people, represent the U.S’ latest tactics of hybrid warfare, in their desperate attempts at regime change, in aid of broader imperial ambitions. If the U.S. and its NATO allies cared one iota about “the suffering of the Syrian people”, and a “common humanity”, as recently espoused by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, they would cease with sanctions, and desist in their propaganda and conquest.