US embargo worsens quake destruction in Syria
Communist parties, progressive organizations and humanitarian institutions firmly condemned US imperialism for its false humanitarianism after Syria and Turkey were hit with a series of earthquakes. On the first days, the US and its European allies poured assistance to Turkey, while outrightly neglecting the destruction in Syria. Worse, the US refused to lift the sanctions and economic embargo it imposed which prevented humanitarian organizations to immediately provide assistance and rescue teams to the country.
Territories in southern Turkey and northern Syria were hit with successive deadly 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude-strong earthquakes on February 6. The destruction was extensive in the most affected areas because the earthquakes were strong and shallow, and because most of the buildings and houses in the affected region were not designed to withstand earthquakes.
In the face of left and right condemnation, the US was forced to suspend some of its sanctions on February 10, but only for 180 days.
Syrian officials called the suspension of select restrictions as hypocritical and face-saving, and no different from the earlier pretensions of the US. Instead, they said, the US should lift all brutal and unilateral sanctions which has caused misery to the Syrian people.
Even experts of the United Nations (UN) concurred that the suspension of a few sanctions is not enough. In a unity statement on February 10, they called for the lifting of all crippling sanctions to make way for the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid, as well as material and machinery to help the whole of Syria to recover.
Among others, UN institutions face difficulty in gathering sufficient food and other supplies due to what it called “over-compliance” or extreme compliance with US restrictions and “derisking” or avoiding possible punishment or fines that the US might impose on them.
In November 2022, UN Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan reported that the sanctions maintain and exacerbate the destruction and trauma of the people caused by the US proxy war in the country during the past 12 years. Even before the earthquake, 90% of Syrians are mired in poverty. Food, water services, electricity, housing, firewood, transportation and health are limited. Douhan said that there is no justification to the violation of the Syrian people’s fundamental human rights.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) declared an indefinite unilateral ceasefire on February 9. “We have decided to not conduct any operation as long as the Turkish state does not attack,” said party leader Cemil Bayik. The ceasefire will last “until the pain of our people is relieved and their wounds are healed.” The Turkish state has not reciprocated the declaration.
Meanwhile, Russia, China and Cuba immediately extended help, medicine and rescue teams to Turkey and Syria. Mexico and countries in Latin America such as Brazil, Venezuela, El Salvador and Colombia did the same. Even Lebanon and Palestine, which are enduring extreme crisis, sent their personnel to directly help in excavating those buried in Syria.
Of the US allies, only Italy extended direct help to Syria. It was forced to land its airplanes carrying aid in Lebanon because of US restrictions.