The Syrians were mistakenly thought to be out of the woods after their victory over the jihadists. This is not the case. Israel and the United States have not abandoned their war objective of destroying state structures. They are preparing a new war, this time financial, to prevent the reconstruction of the country and condemn the Syrians to languish in their ruins.
In Washington, the standoff between the Jacksonians (represented by Donald Trump’s team) and the Imperialists (i.e. the traditional political class) should push the 116th Congress not only to harass the President, but also to play a much greater role in foreign policy.
This Congress has just elected James Risch (Republican, Idaho) as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee and Eliot Engels (Democrat, New York) as Chairman of the equivalent Committee of the House of Representatives. The two men agree on nothing except their unwavering support for the Pentagon and Israel and their hatred of Syria.
If James Risch is an old-fashioned Republican, Eliot Engels is what we would call in France a “bobo” (Bourgeois-Bohéme) New Yorker. His inconsistent positions satisfy all the ethnic communities in his constituency. Above all, it was he who in 2003 filed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, the US declaration of war on Syria.
As soon as the new session opened and even before being elected Commission Chairmen, on 3 January 2019, Risch and Engels both tabled in their respective assemblies a bill (S.1 and H.R. 31) containing an almost identical passage aimed at preventing the reconstruction of Syria. The two men pretend to believe that the photographs in the Caesar report show bodies tortured by the “Bashar regime” (i.e. the Syrian Arab Republic) and not by jihadists (so-called “moderate opponents”). They therefore intend to sanction the Syrian people for having supported those they call “torturers” against the authentic torturers.
In doing so, they are pursuing the strategy implemented by Jeffrey Feltman when he was US Ambassador to Lebanon. In 2005, he created a “Special Court” to try President Bashar al-Assad, guilty, according to him and false witnesses, of having Rafik Hariri murdered. Yesterday “murderer”, today “torturer”.
It is no secret that, beyond rhetorical pretexts, these bills apply in US law the strategy defined by the same Jeffrey Feltman, when he was head of the UN’s political department. In a secret note, written in October 2017, this former assistant to Hillary Clinton instructed all UN agencies to assist Syrian civilians only on an emergency and short-term basis. It prohibited any medium- or long-term assistance to rebuild the country. This directive exceeded its powers and had been taken behind the backs of the Organization’s member States, including without the Security Council’s knowledge. Its existence was revealed ten months later by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on 20 August 2018.
This strategy clearly aims to pursue the same goal as that of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 7-year war against Syria, no longer through the military route since Russia is present, but through the financial route. It is still not a question of overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad (this was only Saudi Arabia’s war objective), nor the Syrian Arab Republic (this was only the objective of the former colonial powers), but of extremely weakening the Syrian State in accordance with the Rumsfeld-Cebrowski doctrine.
What Senator James Risch and Representative Eliot Engels are preparing against Syria is already being implemented by the European Union, a further sign that it was not US parliamentarians who conceived this policy. Thus, on 21 January 2019, the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Union sanctioned the persons and companies responsible for the Mariota City project, a new city that should be built in the suburbs of Damascus. None of these persons (except one) are linked in any way to the fighting, let alone to accusations of torture. They are all civilians involved in a flagship reconstruction project.
The Pentagon and the Treasury
Since 2001, the U.S. Treasury has become a political power working in tandem with the Pentagon. This administration has acquired astonishing powers, in particular by creating a jurisprudence that allows it to extraterritorialize US laws under the pretext that certain international transactions have been carried out in dollars. It is not the law, it is an interpretation that is now accepted by the US courts. At the same time, the Treasury has developed financial tools that allow it to sanction individuals, companies and states with a hardness that no one has ever been able to match. The most frightening example is the gradual imposition of sanctions against Iran since 2005.
Contrary to its communication, the Treasury, by sanctioning a State, does not condemn it or its leaders, but deprives its population of any economic contact with the West. Paradoxically, the victims of these sanctions have learned to circumvent them with the help of allies of the United States. Thus, in the Iranian example, the United Arab Emirates, and in particular the port of Dubai, have become prohibited trade laundering bodies. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had created thousands of intermediaries around the world to hide his country’s trade. They were closed by his successor, Hassan Rohani, and then reopened in a hurry after the US withdrawal of the 5+1 agreement and the return of sanctions. These sanctions can be extremely cruel, such as those against the Houthis in Yemen who are perpetuating a deadly famine there.
It should be recalled that these political sanctions often have nothing to do with those adopted by the United Nations Security Council, and that in this case they are illegal under international law. These are acts of war comparable to the sieges of the Middle Ages. Today, the US Treasury is implementing political sanctions against Belarus, Burundi, Cuba, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba, Iran, Libya, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia, Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, as well as the Donbass People’s Republics (Ukraine), Hezbollah (Iran), Houthis (Yemen) and many others.