Media Silence Over Deadly Sanctions: From Iraq To Syria

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Media Silence Over Deadly Sanctions: From Iraq To Syria

Originally appeared at Medialens

Awkward facts that erode the ‘benign humanitarian’ self-image of the West are routinely side-lined or buried by the corporate media. Consider, for example, the severe impact of sanctions imposed on Syria by the United States and the European Union.

An internal United Nations assessment, revealed on September 28 by Rania Khalek in The Intercept, makes clear that the sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and preventing vital aid, including medical supplies, from reaching those in dire need.

Access has been denied for blood safety equipment, medicines, medical devices, food, fuel, water pumps and spare parts for power plants, amongst other items.

Khalek notes that the internal assessment, which was prepared for the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, describes:

‘the U.S. and EU measures as “some of the most complicated and far-reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed.” Detailing a complex system of “unpredictable and time-consuming” financial restrictions and licensing requirements, the report finds that U.S. sanctions are exceptionally harsh “regarding provision of humanitarian aid.”‘

US sanctions on Syrian banks have made the transfer of funds into Syria ‘nearly impossible’. This has had a two-fold effect:

1. Aid groups have been unable to pay local staff and suppliers which has delayed or prevented aid from reaching those in need.

2. An unofficial and unregulated financial network has proliferated, making it easier for ISIS and al Qaeda to divert funds undetected.

Khalek also reports that a leaked email from ‘a key UN official’ blamed US and EU sanctions for contributing to food shortages and weakened health care. In particular:

‘sanctions had contributed to a doubling in fuel prices in 18 months and a 40 percent drop in wheat production since 2010, causing the price of wheat flour to soar by 300 percent and rice by 650 percent.’

The UN official cited sanctions as a ‘principal factor’ in the erosion of Syria’s health care system. Khalek adds:

‘Medicine-producing factories that haven’t been completely destroyed by the fighting have been forced to close because of sanctions-related restrictions on raw materials and foreign currency’.

The US first imposed sanctions on Syria in 1979, after designating its government ‘a State Sponsor of Terrorism’. Over time, further sanctions were added with more extreme restrictions imposed in 2011 after it was claimed the Syrian government had initiated violence against peaceful protesters (a claim that has been contested). In 2013, sanctions were eased, but only in areas that opposed President Assad. As Khalek notes:

‘Around the same time, the CIA began directly shipping weapons to armed insurgents at a colossal cost of nearly $1 billion a year, effectively adding fuel to the conflict while U.S. sanctions obstructed emergency assistance to civilians caught in the crossfire.’

When Khalek challenged the US State Department about the devastating impact of sanctions on war-torn Syria, where 13 million people are dependent on humanitarian assessment, she was fed a statement ‘which recycled talking points that justified sanctions against Iraq in [the] 1990s’:

‘U.S. sanctions against [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad], his backers, and the regime deprive these actors of resources that could be used to further the bloody campaign Assad continues to wage against his own people’.

The same specious propaganda arguments were used by the West, notably the United States and Britain, to ‘justify’ barbaric sanctions against Iraq from 1990 to 2003, following the first Gulf War. Leading politicians and officials in the West claimed that the sanctions were aimed at punishing and containing Saddam. But the victims were the Iraqi people themselves. In 1999, the United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that the mortality rate for children under five in Iraq had doubled. In all, half a million young Iraqi children died as a result. Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, infamously declared that ‘the price is worth it’.

Given the terrible consequences in Iraq under the crippling UN embargo, the United States government is no doubt perfectly aware of the impact of sanctions on the Syrian people. Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, observes:

‘Sanctions have a terrible effect on the people more than the regime and Washington knows this from Iraq. But there’s pressure in Washington to do something and sanctions look like you’re doing something.’

Hans von Sponeck, who resigned from his post as the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Baghdad in 2000, accused Washington and London of ‘knowingly maintaining conditions of misery’ in Iraq under sanctions. (Hans von Sponeck, ‘A Different Kind of War: The UN Sanctions Regime in Iraq’, Berghahn, 2006, p. 27). We are not supposed to believe that ‘our’ governments would do such a heinous thing. And, indeed, von Sponeck’s book was essentially ignored by the western media. It has never been reviewed by any major UK newspaper, and has literally been mentioned only once (by Robert Fisk in the Independent).

As well as the current punitive sanctions on Syria, Khalek also notes that:

‘in cities controlled by ISIS, the U.S. has employed some of the same tactics it condemns. For example, U.S.-backed ground forces laid siege to Manbij, a city in northern Syria not far from Aleppo that is home to tens of thousands of civilians. U.S. airstrikes pounded the city over the summer, killing up to 125 civilians in a single attack. The U.S. also used airstrikes to drive ISIS out of Kobane, Ramadi, and Fallujah, leaving behind flattened neighborhoods. In Fallujah, residents resorted to eating soup made from grass and 140 people reportedly died from lack of food and medicine during the siege.’

An honest media would report all this with headline coverage and include much critical analysis in editorials and opinion pieces. They would also ask searching questions of the British Prime Minister and other leading politicians. Needless to say, this has not happened. Indeed, our searches have revealed just one newspaper article covering the report’s assessment that US and EU sanctions are contributing to the terrible suffering of the Syrian people. Patrick Cockburn reported in the Independent:

‘the US and EU sanctions are imposing an economic siege on Syria as a whole which may be killing more Syrians than die of illness and malnutrition in the sieges which EU and US leaders have described as war crimes. Over half the country’s public hospitals have been damaged or destroyed.’

We found nothing on the BBC News website.

Even when the Guardian trumpeted an ‘exclusive’ on September 30 (two days after Rania Khalek’spiece in The Intercept) that more than 80% of UN aid convoys in Syria had been blocked or delayed, there was nothing about the crippling effect on aid by US and EU sanctions. There was a single passing mention to these sanctions, but only in the context of heaping blame on the official enemy Assad:

‘the UN has awarded contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to individuals closely associated with Assad, including businesspeople whose companies are under US and EU sanctions.’

We asked Nick Hopkins, the author of the Guardian article, to explain why his ‘exclusive’ had ignored criticism of US and EU sanctions (here and here). He did not respond. Hopkins, a former BBC journalist, had also remained silent when we challenged him in 2011 about a propaganda piece on Iran. Likewise, he ignored us in 2013 when we challenged him to justify misinforming Guardian readers that merely ‘tens of thousands’ had died in Iraq following the 2003 invasion by US-led forces.

These are just a tiny sample of the myriad examples that reveal the Guardian‘s role as a liberal gatekeeper of acceptable views in the ‘mainstream’. Bear this in mind the next time you see an onlineGuardian advert pleading:

‘Producing in-depth, thoughtful, well-reported journalism is difficult and expensive – but supporting us isn’t. If you value the Guardian’s international coverage, please help to fund our journalism by becoming a supporter.’

Support journalism that regularly buries Western crimes? Smears Jeremy Corbyn and the public movement behind him? And promotes a ‘liberal’ view of climate-wrecking capitalism? No thanks.

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  • IH8Lies

    Great article.
    The true terrorists are these evil bastards that hide behind their sanctions.
    Just another form of killing and destroying.

  • Nofearorfavor

    What one reads here, US and western sanctions perpetrated not only war crimes on both Iraq and Syria, but GENOCIDE. Madeline Allbright’s words, “‘the price is worth it’”– on the death, actually the genocide caused by US sanctions to 500,000 children– forever remain etched in the memory of all decent common sense human beings. Samantha Power, in a recent address at the UNSC, dared call Russians and Syrians “barbarians” !! My God!– When the leaders of the west proved themselves to be worse than barbarians– but behaved like mindless, rabid animals– with not offence meant to vulnerable animals who suffer from rabies– animals who don’t have the fifth element of discretion, that human beings are all naturally equipped with– discretion which distinguish humans from all species for possessing compassion and empathy of not only their own species, but all species they were given minion over to protect and nurture. The leaders of the western world is turning their countries into godless sewers as all their actions show there is no limit to their unspeakable deeds–

    One can only ask in benumbed disbelief how the world has come to be owned and controlled by those whose actions show they are no longer human– as they have lost all right to belong to what we all accept as human, when the most precious qualities defining an average human being died within them– that is, the moral and spiritual wealth all humans are blessed with at birth, which at the very least, develops us into becoming reasonably caring human beings– with feelings for the suffering of ALL of our kind– down to very least amongst us, as well as respect for all other life forms. These evil monsters have dealt shock to the very soul on millions of innocents!! — No words can describe what such evildoers have wreaked on humankind over multiple millennia. However, living in the supposedly enlightened 21st Century now– these monsters continue dooming our beautiful world and its precious souls to abject Darkness… We exist merely– as most never reach their full Godly potential– their shining innocence stolen away from childhood by the baseless greed of these monsters!

    The Almighty God– The Supreme Being– by whatever name we call the One, who in actual fact is Nameless– is indescribable in finite human terms……….The Nameless one, the Creator of all that exist, will not be mocked by those hurting and butchering His souls….

    Has one even got the will left, to say– and what’s more mean it, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

  • Nofearorfavor

    The United States of America. claims to be the world’s Superpower– the most democratic and technologically advanced nation, the exceptional and indispensable nation of the world.

    How can this be so, when facts show that German scientists after WWII “exported” to the US, catapulted the US into the technological age, while the world stood aghast as it’s so-called most democratic and enlightened nation– from 1946 to date visited on many countries globally, the worst death and destruction, “regime” change and governing by US proxy, while plundering natural resources and keeping populations dumbed down and uneducated, living in poverty and starving– physically, mentally and spiritually– the modern world has ever known! Forced on all countries their Global Central Bank controlled financial system– US currency the standard global currency– while invasions wars and annexations of sovereign countries and even ocean islands continued. Of the five countries they wished to conquer in seven years and bring bring under their blood soaked satanic cloak, they have already decimated and brought chaos to —
    Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and frenetically busy in Somalia, as we speak, only Iran is left.

    Of course we all know the pearl they desire most is Russia– but they will not ever again invade and rule Russia, or visit another holocaust — (the world’s worst one in history) — on this land. Yet one is staggered at the blindness and ignorance which continue pervading ordinary western humanity!

    Unless western peoples inform themselves and understand that Russia is the only other world power which can save them from the hellish ambitions of their own delusional and crazed hedonist leaders, there is no hope for these brainwashed and viciously betrayed peoples, who have come to value and even worship only the transient– the material trappings of their false and increasingly immoral and spiritually bankrupt western world.

    Needless to say, atrocities too numerous to mention here, fell under the cloak of US full spectrum global dominance and their archaic one world government agenda…. All the information above, available within the public domain for anyone who cares to do a bit of committed research and then arrive at their own conclusions. It includes the multiple assassinations over only the last 70 years, of the brave ones among us, who dared resist the US/Zionist’s ideological plan for Planet Earth– for the veritable prison planet they envisaged and envisage for humankind. The Matrix Jon Rappoport calls it….