Syria Sanctions – A death sentence, part one

German relief money went to Al Nusra in Idlib


Karin Leukefeld in Rubicon

Sanctioned to death

EU sanctions against Syria have made a terrible humanitarian situation worse. [Read part two]The Western military forces supposedly want to punish President Assad. Actually, they are hitting a battered people who would still have the mental power to rise from the ruins of war, if they were allowed to.

In the aftermath of the war, the European Union is pursuing a perfidious dual strategy: on the one hand, the recent prolonged sanctions against Syria are preventing reconstruction; On the other hand, the people lying on the ground are then supposed to be fed with “humanitarian” alms.

The Syrians are prevented from building houses and instead provide tents for them.The European Council (1) has extended its “unilateral economic sanctions” (sanctions) against Syria for another year until 1 June 2020. The measure is “against the regime” and “in line” with the EU-Syria strategy (2), it said in a press release. The violence of the “Syrian regime” against the civilian population is continuing, but the EU is committed to a “lasting and credible political solution to the conflict in Syria under UNSCR 2254 and the 2012 Geneva Communiqué”.

EU sanctions, imposed for the first time in 2011 and since then ever tightened and expanded, include an oil embargo, investment bans and the freezing of assets held by the European Central Bank. They include export restrictions on equipment and technology “that can be used for internal repression, as well as equipment and technology for monitoring or interception of the Internet and telephone conversations.”
In fact, almost every type of technology is affected: spare parts and tools for textile or printing presses, for vehicles, for aircraft, for the power supply, for medical devices and raw materials of all kinds.

Currently, 269 individuals and 69 companies are affected by the sanctions, “because they are responsible for, or benefit from and support, and / or associated with, the violent crackdown on the Syrian civilian population.”

Five people and one company have been stricken from the list. Why? The five people died and the company was dissolved.

Whether the UN criticism of sanctions against Syria has been taken into account is unclear. It is also unclear exactly who settled on the decision: Was there a meeting where advice and different opinions were heard? Was a resubmission just ticked off? Was it decided by phone?

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Impact of Sanctions, Idriss Jazairy, said last year (2018) after a visit to Syria that every single Syrian and also the work of the relief agencies was affected by the sanctions. (3)
The situation in Syria caused by the war is “terrible,” according to Jazairy, “but I want to emphasize that punitive measures are only making the situation worse.” Particularly “frightening” is that “over-enforcement of sanctions forces humanitarian and economic actors to find irregular mechanisms for payment.” This increases costs, delays deliveries, reduces transparency and makes it impossible for some companies to continue their work.”

Just days after its declaration of 17 May 2018, the European Council extended the sanctions until 1 June 2019.
Stanislav Grosbic, chairman of the Czech parliamentarian group “Friendship with Syria” told the Syrian news agency SANA in Prague on 14 May 2019 that the aim of the punitive measures was to hinder reconstruction in Syria and the fight against still active terrorists in Syria.

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The EU sided with the terrorists in Syria, Grosbic was quoted by SANA. The punitive measures burdened not only Syria but also EU states. Syria is turning away from the EU and establishing economic ties with Russia, China, India and other states.

Sanctions and help – two sides of a coin

A look at the website of the Federal Foreign Office, Keyword ‘Foreign Policy, Situation in Syria’ shows that the current decision in Brussels is not worth reporting.

Instead, one finds a “Factsheet Syria” in which “Help for Syria and its refugees” is clarified. Factsheet date is February 2018, more than a year ago (4).As a result, humanitarian aid increased from 52 million euro in 2012 to 720 million euro in 2017. 44 percent of this money went to Syria in 2018, and the remainder to neighboring countries and the region.

In addition to humanitarian aid, money will be made available for “stabilization”. While in 2013 it was 59 million euros, the annual total fell rapidly in 2014 and 2015, reaching 41 million euros again in 2017. It is interesting to note the explanation given by the Federal Foreign Office for the so-called stabilization aid:


The Federal Foreign Office supports political processes in crisis situations in order to promote the solution of armed conflicts. Often a central government is supported, as in Iraq, or a moderate opposition like in Syria. In Syria, for example, the Stabilization Fund will co-finance Syrian civil defense – the White Helmets – and maintain administrative structures to ensure that there is no complete vacuum in the absence of the Syrian state. In Iraq and Libya, for example, after the liberation of the so-called Islamic State, care is taken to ensure that, among other things, the electricity and water supplies are restored so that internally displaced persons can return to their homes and a peace dividend can be felt by the people.

“Large sums of money flowed into the “stabilization” through the establishment of administrative structures in Idlib, today the area is predominantly controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS), the Al Qaeda-affiliated “Alliance for the conquest of Syria”, formerly Nusra Front. And after the “liberation” of Rakka, then-Foreign Minister Siegmar Gabriel promised the then local “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) controlled local administration 10 million euros to restore power and water supply and remove mines.

[Read part two]

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