U.S. Congress Re-Commits to Punishing the Syrian People

The 7.8- and 7.5-magnitude earthquakes which struck Türkiye and Syria Feb. 6, killing as many as 6,000 Syrians and more than 40,000 in Türkiye, has once again focused attention on the murderous intention of the economic and financial sanctions that the United States, Great Britain, and the European Union have imposed on the Syrian nation since 2019.

To punish the Syrian people for not letting the western-backed anti-Assad forces win the civil war, and not toppling President Assad, the U.S. Congress passed the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act 2019, which was signed into law by President Trump. It intentionally sanctions any individual or group that engages in economic activity, that would support in any way the reconstruction of Syria after war.

Although the U.S. Treasury Department ostensibly relaxed some of the measures in the wake of the earthquakes to facilitate relief efforts, sanctions on transportation for delivering assistance, bank transfers, and all operations by private parties have effectively prevented aid from reaching the victims. State Department spokesman Ned Price claimed the “Assad regime” has harmed the Syrian people “thousands of times more” than the earthquakes.

The Schiller Institute launched a campaign immediately after the disaster to demand that the Congress lift the sanctions (cf. SAS 6 -9/23). The World Council of Churches as well as the UN Human Rights Office have also demanded they be suspended.

But not the Congress, which responded to the mobilization by voting 412 to 2, on Feb. 28, a resolution professing sympathy for the victims of the earthquakes and support for relief efforts, but concluding by urging the Biden Administration to “remain committed to the protection of the Syrian people including by implementing the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2019”—that is, by maintaining all the sanctions!

What the vast majority of Americans ignore is that the north-eastern part of Syria remains occupied to this day by 900 U.S. troops, in the areas under the control of Kurds in the Syrian Democratic Forces backed and protected by the United States. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley paid a surprise visit to those troops on March 4, to reaffirm the occupation, although it constitutes a flagrant violation of Syrian territorial integrity.

This happens to be precisely the area where most of the oil fields are located. As of last Autumn, according to the Syrian Oil Ministry, and still today, the U.S. and other occupation forces are stealing an average of 66,000 barrels of oil per day, which constitutes four-fifths of the country’s current oil production. Almost none of the revenue is ever received by the government in Damascus!

The Schiller Institute is also mobilizing support for a different resolution in the House, introduced by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, which may come up for a vote already this week. It mandates the removal of all 900 members of the U.S. Armed Forces still in Syria.

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