U.S. should immediately stop creating humanitarian disasters in Syria

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People search for survivors among the rubble of a building destroyed in a powerful earthquake in the al-Masharqa neighborhood of Aleppo city, northern Syria, on Feb. 7, 2023. (Str/Xinhua)
People search for survivors among the rubble of a building destroyed in a powerful earthquake

By Zhong Sheng

Two pieces of news about Syria recently gave mixed feelings to the international society.
Arab foreign ministers decided in an Arab League (AL) extraordinary meeting to restore Syria’s membership in the league, which was welcomed and supported by many countries.

However, the United States criticized Syria’s readmission into the AL the next day, and declared to extend the regime of unilateral sanctions against Syria for another year, starting from May 11.

Reluctant to see Arab countries unite with each other, the United States blatantly disagrees with the world. This is a result of its habitual practice of seeking interests by provoking separation in the Middle East, and once again exposes its hypocritical double standards.

The restoration of Syria’s membership in the AL after 12 years of suspension is an important measure of Arab countries to seek strength through unity. The international community believes that it is another milestone in the reconciliation process among Middle East countries after the Saudi Arabia-Iran talks in Beijing. The move is believed to be conducive to promoting peace and stability in the Middle East and the vitalization of the Arab world, as well as the long-term interests of Arab countries.

However, this heartening message for the people in Syria and the Middle East has bothered the United States. Some American politicians called the restoration of Syria’s AL membership a serious strategic mistake, saying the United States would not promote the normalization of its ties with Syria and hoping its allies to follow.

This marks a second time of the United States blatantly impeding the trend of reconciliation in the Middle East after it expressed “disappointment” toward the restoration of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Countries in the Middle East have a strong desire to independently seek peace and development, and they have the ability to do so. The remarks and practices of the United States are against the trend of history.

Just as American journalist Fareed Zakaria put it, the United States is still addicted to its diplomatic achievements during the Cold War period, unaware of the changes happening to the world.

Twelve years of turbulence in Syria has created severe humanitarian crises, and the United States is to blame for this.

According to statistics released by the UN, U.S. military intervention has claimed at least 350,000 lives in Syria, displaced more than 12 million people, and left 14 million civilians in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
The World Food Programme said that 90 percent of Syrians now live under the poverty line, and 2/3 of the country’s population rely on humanitarian aid. Over 12 million people in Syria are grappling with food insecurity.

Apart from military intervention in Syria, the U.S. forces are still occupying the major oil producing areas in the country and stealing 80 percent of Syria’s oil production, which even worsened the economy and livelihood in Syria.
Syrian expert of international politics Mohammad Omari noted that the United States bears unshirkable responsibility to the chaos in Syria, citing Washington’s military intervention, plundering of oil and food, as well as sanctions that throw Syria into long-term predicament.

The long-term illegal unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States on Syria have further exacerbated the latter’s humanitarian disasters.

Alena Douhan, UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, said the unilateral coercive measures imposed on Syria have shocking impacts on human rights and humanitarianism.

In February this year, a heavy earthquake in the northwest of Syria caused massive casualties. It was under the pressure of global public opinion that the United States temporarily relaxed some sanctions on Syria 72 hours after the earthquake took place, which is considered the golden period for rescue. The unilateral sanctions by the United States have significantly weakened Syria in disaster response. Without heavy-duty equipment and searching devices, Syrian people had to dig in the ruins with bare hands, and many innocent civilians lost their lives because of insufficient rescue.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad condemned that U.S. sanctions have “made the disaster all the worse.”
Today, when Syria has restored its AL membership and other Arab countries have agreed to help Syria get rid of crises, the United States has arbitrarily decided to extend its illegal unilateral sanctions on Syria.

It fully proves that the United States is still not willing to take its hegemonic hands off Syria, fully proves the hypocrisy of the United States in its commitment to safeguarding human rights, and fully proves that the United States places its hegemony above other countries sovereignty and human rights.

It is the Syrian people who own their future. The United States should put aside its geopolitical calculations, immediately lift its unilateral sanctions on Syria, immediately end its troops’ illegal occupation and plundering in Syria, and stop creating humanitarian disasters. It should practically obey the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and international law, respect other countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity, and return human rights, wealth, freedom and dignity to the Syrian people.

(Zhong Sheng is a pen name often used by People’s Daily to express its views on foreign policy and international affairs.)

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