Sanctions as indiscriminate weapons against non-combatants
The legality of the western imposed sanctions on Syria and Iran are being discussed at the University of Damascus as well as among some officials and NGO's here. A fairly cogent argument can be made that the type of sanctions being imposed on Syria and Iran are illegal under international customary law and, as with the banning of cluster bombs in 2008, should also be outlawed by an international convention. This is because the sanctions are political, rather obviously designed to achieve regime changes. They are also fundamentally indiscriminate and target and endanger the civilian non-combatants population particularly the poor, young, infirm and senior citizens
Claims are made in Washington and Europe that the increasing layers of sanctions target only the regime's leader and its policies. This is nonsense. As in Iraq where US organized sanctions have been found to be a main cause of nearly 500,000 deaths of children, those seriously affected here are not the government officials.
The sanctions, as designed for application to both Syria and Iran also violate Art. 2 (4) of the UN Charter which commands that all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.
In discussions with officials as well as a rough cross-section of the citizenry of Damascus, including shoppers and clerks at a central Damascus supermarket, as well as students, it is possible to get a fairly good idea how the Western imposed sanctions are affecting families here.
A progressive Syrian journalist who works part time with an American NGO, and is critical of the Assad government but even more so of the desperate rebel groups, shared a fairly representative analysis regarding what is the current situation in Damascus regarding the Western sanctions:
"I think the sanctions being imposed on our country have a tremendous effect on the current crisis. Prices on average have risen at least 40 percent, especially consumer goods and basic food, like meat, milk bread, vegetables, fruit etc. Eggs and chicken have doubled in price and are unavailable in some small shops. Lines are getting longer at some gas stations in some parts of Damascus. The sanctions have also forced many people to close down their factories in Damascus and Aleppo because of lack of raw materials, and the spiral increase in their prices. My daughter works in an accessory household company. They need to import materials from Turkey. Clothing is more expensive since Turkish goods are not entering. I believe her company will close down soon. You can talk to her about it if interested. My son is considering travelling because of the lack of job opportunities. Young men his age are very frustrated here and some of the idle young are joining gangs and being recruited by jihadist groups offering cash and weapons along with indoctrination. As a mother I worry about him staying out of trouble but young people don't seem to listen. The crisis has also forced employers to discharge people to cut down expenses. Many merchants have already left the country and transferred their money elsewhere. Others, such as warmongers, have benefitted from the crisis. Smuggled goods are expensive if available. The sanctions have hurt the ordinary people more than the regime by far. We are far worse off than 20 months ago."
What worries this observer a bit is that last night a businessman close to the leadership assured me that "We can fight ten years to retain control of Damascus from Al Qaeda and the fanatics. Do not worry my friend."
Worried? I was speechless. Because on exactly August 12, 2011, these were the exact words spoken to me by a friend, Mr Khaled Kane, a good man and at the time Deputy Foreign Minister of Libya. Ten days later, not ten years, Tripoli fell to the rebels and following arrest, torture, and now ill health, Khaled languishes in a Misrata jail.
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