US occupation of Syria will continue

5 mins read

The sudden unannounced arrival of the top US military officer General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a dusty American base in Syria’s remote northeast on Friday may call to mind a famous quote by Dick Cheney, vice-president in the George W Bush presidency: “The good Lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected regimes friendly to the United States. Occasionally we have to operate in places where, all considered, one would not normally choose to go. But we go where the business is.” 

According to eyewitness accounts, as recently as last week, on 27 February, US troops transported at least 34 tankers filled with stolen Syrian oil through the illegal Al-Mahmoudiya border crossing to their bases in Iraq. In the estimation of the Syrian foreign ministry, the cumulative losses incurred by the country’s oil and gas sector on account of theft and other US actions were to the tune of $107 billion as of August last year. 

Oil is a unique mineral that anaesthetises thought, blurs vision, corrupts. But according to a Reuters report, Milley’s visit was about something else than oil —  purportedly “to assess efforts to prevent a resurgence” of the Islamic State militant group and “review safeguards for American forces against attacks, including from drones flown by Iran-backed militia.” 

Now, that is a stretch for two reasons — one, there are only around 900 US troops all in all in Syria and Milley doesn’t have to undertake such routine mission; two, there is actually no history of the Islamic State [ISIS] having ever attacked the US forces in Syria. 

On the contrary, the folklore among regional states is that the US mentors the Islamic State, gives training to the cadres of the shadowy militant group at the remote American base at Al-Tanf on the Syrian-Iraqi border, and even provides logistical support to the group’s operations in Syria’s desert region. 

It is unclear whether Milley met with commanders of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces that have been the main ally of US forces in north-eastern Syria. 

One plausible explanation will be that Milley came on White House instructions against the backdrop of a legislation to end the US involvement in Syria that will be up for a vote in the US Congress this week. US Congressman Matt Gaetz (Republican from Florida) who last month introduced a  War Powers Resolution to direct President Joe Biden to remove the US Armed Forces from Syria has frontally attacked Milley’s visit. 

Gaetz said in a statement on Friday, “If General Milley wants this war so bad, he should explain what we are fighting for and why it is worth American treasure and blood. An America First foreign policy demands realism, rational thought, and seriousness.”

He pointed out that “Syria is a quagmire of a tinderbox. America has no discernible interest in continuing to fund a fight where alliances shift faster than the desert sands.” 

But Milley is unfazed. Asked by reporters if he believed the Syria deployment is worth it, Milley said, ”I happen to think that’s important.” Milley added, “So I think that an enduring defeat of ISIS and continuing to support our friends and allies in the region … I think those are important tasks that can be done.”

Congressman Gaetz tabled the draft legislation following a press release by the US Central Command on February 17 announcing that four service members were wounded during a helicopter raid in northeastern Syria when an explosion was triggered from the ground. 

The bottom line is that there is no rationale other than geopolitical considerations for the continued US occupation of about a third of Syrian territory. These considerations are principally: 

  • Need to keep US footprint in the strategic Eastern Mediterranean;
  • US’ troubled relations with Turkey; 
  • Israel’s security; 
  • Russian bases in Syria; 
  • the Russian-Syrian-Iranian axis; and, most important, 
  • the geo-strategy to keep Syria weak and divided for the foreseeable future. 

A commentary last year in the government-owned China Daily poignantly captured the Syrian tragedy: “The alleged plunder of Syrian oil by the United States and its proxies will only worsen conditions in the sanctions-hit country as it struggles to rebuild after years of war… consumption of Syria’s limited resources by the hegemonic power and its proxy groups in the troubled nation will encourage militancy and undermine efforts to stabilise the wider region.”

The commentary cited the Syrian Foreign Ministry to the effect that the presence of US forces in the country’s northeast and the plundering of Syrian oil is an attempt to obstruct a political solution and undermines stability and security. It said “the way Washington is acting and its unlimited support of terrorist groups show the hypocrisy of the US in the region, a situation that is no longer acceptable morally or politically.” 

The Assad government’s normalisation process with the regional states in the Gulf — especially, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar — as well as Egypt and Turkey has put the US in a predicament. It is particularly galling for the US that Russia is mediating the Turkish-Syrian rapprochement. 

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov announced on Monday that his country, Turkey, Iran, and Syria are discussing organising a meeting of their respective foreign ministers — “We are working on it. I can say that we agreed not to disclose details for the time being; not everything is so simple; we must work discretely on the principles of quiet diplomacy,” he added in an oblique reference to devious attempts to derail the process. 

Suffice it to say that Washington is increasingly left with no option but to stir up the Syrian pot again and create turmoil with a view to create an alibi for the continued occupation of Syria. The Syrian government has drawn attention to this in a statement condemning Milley’s “illegal visit to an illegal US military base.” 

The statement alleged that “the international community knows very well that Daesh [ISIS] is an illegitimate offspring of US intelligence… [and] the support provided by the US forces to terrorist and separatist militias in the areas of its occupation is a declared American stance aimed at prolonging the terrorist war against Syria for goals that are no longer hidden from anyone.” 

Milley himself has been candid that the US military occupation must continue. Given Milley’s professional reputation as a ‘yes’ man, who is acutely conscious of the ‘wind factor’ (as the Chinese would say) in the corridors of power in DC at any given time, it is entirely conceivable that President Biden will now get exactly the feedback and recommendation he needs to block the momentum in the US Congress for withdrawal of American troops from Syria. 

The Moscow daily Vedmosti reported today, citing an informed diplomatic source, that Assad plans to pay an official visit to Russia in mid-March. Assad last visited Russia in September 2021. 

The Russian daily estimated that humanitarian issues relating to the recent earthquake and Russian assistance would be the focus of the talks, but it is also “important for the parties to compare each other’s positions and develop common approaches” on a range of political issues. Russia, Turkey, Iran and Syria have a common position calling for an end to the 7-year old US occupation of Syria.

Editorial: Our Shared Responsibilities — Aftermath of Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria

4 mins read


The recent earthquakes that struck Syria and Turkey (Türkiye) serve as a stark reminder of the devastating impact natural disasters can have on communities and individuals. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the border region between Syria and Turkey on February 6th, 2023, was the deadliest earthquake to hit the region in recent times, leaving thousands of people dead and many more injured or homeless. The first earthquake was followed by two more earthquakes and rescue operations became more complex and challenging. The disaster was a devastating blow to communities in both countries, and has had far-reaching consequences for the survivors and their families.

In the aftermath of natural disasters like earthquakes, it is important that we come together as a global community to provide support to those in need. Friends in need are the friends indeed. The immediate priority is to provide emergency assistance to those who have been affected, including food, shelter, and medical care. Governments, international organizations, and humanitarian groups have a crucial role to play in this response effort, providing crucial resources and support to help people get back on their feet. Many countries, including Russia, China and India, are greatly appreciated for their quick dispatch of experts to facilitate rescue operations.

However, the response to natural disasters like earthquakes cannot be left solely in the hands of governments and aid organizations. It is our common responsibility as individuals and members of society to support those in need, whether that be through donating money, volunteering, or simply spreading awareness about the situation. By working together, we can help to ensure that the victims of natural disasters like earthquakes receive the support they need to rebuild their lives and communities.

One of the key challenges in responding to natural disasters like earthquakes is the lack of resources and infrastructure in affected areas. In the case of this natural disaster in Syria and Turkey, many communities were already struggling with poverty, conflict, and displacement, making the response effort even more complex. The earthquake also caused widespread damage to infrastructure, including homes, schools, and healthcare facilities, making it difficult for people to access basic services.

In these situations, it is important that we not only respond to immediate needs but also focus on long-term recovery and reconstruction. This includes supporting the reconstruction of homes, schools, and healthcare facilities, as well as providing support to communities to help them recover economically. For example, this could involve providing training and support to help people start businesses or access new income-generating activities.

The irony is that this natural disaster was followed by a series of manufactured social calamities in the region. It is common knowledge who is behind those heinous acts.

Ancient Civilizations

In recent history, that was the western hegemony which schemed to destroy this region and ruin its heritage by leaving human lives in miserable conditions. Though, many countries and organizations are worried about the situation in Turkey, (of course, it should be), it is sad to see how certain powerful elements in the west trying to marginalize the grave condition in Syria. However, regardless of political differences, no one can deny that it was the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his team who decided to solve many problems, including the large influx of refugees to their country from neighboring Syria. As a single nation, Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world. 

The civilizations of Syria and Turkey have played a significant role in shaping world history. These ancient cultures have left a lasting impact on art, architecture, religion, and philosophy, influencing generations to come and contributing to the diverse tapestry of human civilization.

Syria is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited regions and has been at the crossroads of various civilizations for thousands of years. As a result, Syria has been a melting pot of different cultures, religions, and ideas. During the ancient times, Syria was home to great civilizations such as the Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. These civilizations made significant contributions to the fields of science, mathematics, astronomy, and literature. For example, the Sumerians invented the wheel and cuneiform writing, while the Babylonians developed a sophisticated system of mathematics, including the use of a sexagesimal number system.

Turkey, on the other hand, has been the birthplace of several great civilizations, including the Hittites, Byzantines, and Ottoman Turks. The Hittites, who ruled over large parts of modern-day Turkey and Syria from the 16th to the 12th century BC, developed a sophisticated system of government, religion, and trade, and made significant contributions to the fields of metallurgy and military technology. The Byzantine Empire, which was centered in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), lasted for over a thousand years and played a crucial role in shaping the religious, cultural, and political landscape of Europe and the Middle East. Finally, the Ottoman Empire, which was established in the late 13th century and lasted until the early 20th century, was one of the largest and most powerful empires in world history, spanning three continents and influencing the course of world events for centuries.

Needless to say, the civilizations of Syria and Turkey have made a lasting impact on world history and continue to shape the world as we know it today. From the ancient civilizations of Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon to the modern-day influence of Islam and Christianity, the cultures of these regions have played a crucial role in shaping the course of human civilization. Whether through their contributions to art, science, religion, or politics, the civilizations of Syria and Turkey have left a legacy that continues to inspire and influence people around the world. This natural calamity not only destroyed two countries but also significantly damaged our archival records of human civilization.

Shared Responsibility

In the aftermath of these events, it is the responsibility of the international community to stand with the victims and provide support to help them recover and rebuild. This support must be delivered in a timely and effective manner, with a focus on ensuring that aid is distributed equally and that those who are responsible for providing assistance are held accountable and transparent in their actions.

One of the most important elements of responding to a natural disaster is empathy. It is essential that those who are providing support have a deep understanding of the experiences and needs of the victims, and are able to respond in a compassionate and sensitive manner. This includes being aware of cultural differences and working to build trust with the communities that have been affected.

In conclusion, standing with the victims of natural disasters and providing support to help them recover and rebuild is a shared responsibility of the international community. This requires providing effective and timely emergency assistance, supporting long-term recovery and reconstruction, and ensuring that aid is distributed equally and transparently. It also requires empathy and a deep understanding of the experiences and needs of the victims, and a commitment to accountability and transparency in all aspects of the response effort. Let us stand with the people of Turkey and Syria at this difficult time.

Syria: Diplomatic Ignominy over Humanity’s Orphans  

8 mins read

Following excerpts adapted from the author’s new book, Syria Betrayed: Atrocities, War, and the Failure of International Diplomacy published by Columbia University Press.

Everybody had their agenda and the interests of the Syrian people came second, third, or not at all. — Lakhdar Brahimi, UN special envoy for Syria, August 31, 2015

In Early 2011 the world was stunned as the Arab Spring tore through Tunisia, then Egypt, and then Libya, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, and Jordan. Syria stood at the precipice. As diplomats at the United Nations argued about what to do in Libya and the deteriorating situation in Côte d’Ivoire, few understood that Syria was descending into a hell of civil war that would consume more than half a million lives, displace more than half the country’s population, host the brutally genocidal Islamic State, and draw in the militaries of Iran, Hezbollah, Russia, the United States, Turkey, and others. As Syria’s tragedy unfolded, not one foreign government consistently prioritized the protection of Syrians from atrocity crimes. Not only did they do little to alleviate suffering, much of what they did made matters worse. They betrayed Syria’s civilians by breaking the trust between peoples, states, and global institutions exemplified by the responsibility to protect.

It is difficult to convey the extent of the brutality inflicted on Syria’s tormented civilians since the uprising began in 2011, since raw numbers have a numbing effect. Syrians have been shot in the streets as they protested. Tens of thousands were hauled into prisons and tortured until dead. Tens of thousands more live on in those conditions. Barrel bombs packed with high explosives, nails, and other makeshift shrapnel have been hurled indiscriminately by the dozen into civilian neighborhoods. Men, women, and children have been gassed to death with sarin and chlorine. Civilians have been shot, knifed, beheaded, and even crucified. They have been denied food, water, and medicine to the point of malnutrition. Children have had their homes brought down on top of them and have been raped, shot, tortured, and forcibly recruited into armed groups. Women and girls have been kidnapped, trafficked, and sold as sex slaves. Schools have been systematically targeted and destroyed. Hospitals and medical centers suffered the same fate. The government and its allies were not responsible for all Syria’s atrocities, but they were responsible for the overwhelming majority. Syrian civilians found themselves trapped between ISIS extremism and its deranged ideology enforced by beheading, immolation, and slavery and the indiscriminate barrel bombs, artillery fire, rockets, missiles, and militia of the government and its allies. Yet even at the peak of ISIS’s power in Syria, jihadists killed Syrian civilians at a lower rate than the government. Different datasets record the number of civilians killed by the government and its allies in the decade between 2011 and 2021 as being between 175,000 and 207,000. In comparison, those same datasets record that ISIS was responsible for the deaths of between 5,000 and 6,500 Syrian civilians. The number of civilians killed by other opposition groups ranges between 6,000 and 11,000. Put another way, the Syrian government and its allies are likely responsible for between 86 and 94 percent of all civilian deaths directly caused by the war. These stark discrepancies show that while opposition groups certainly perpetrated atrocities, they did not do so on anything like the scale perpetrated by the government and its allies. There is no place for moral equivalency in the story of Syria’s war.

More than sixty years earlier, the newly established United Nations General Assembly adopted a convention to prohibit genocide and establish a legal duty to prevent it. Two years later the four Geneva Conventions established what we today call International Humanitarian Law. Additional protocols agreed to in 1977 stipulated that “the civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited” (article 13, protocol II). The protocols required that any use of force be strictly confined to military goals and established the legal principle of discrimination—the rule that soldiers are obliged to discriminate between soldiers and civilians and should refrain from violence if they cannot tell the difference. Violations of these laws have become known as “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.” New laws restricted the use of “Certain Conventional Weapons” (1980, 1995, 1996, 2008). The Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997 prohibited possession, manufacture, and use of chemical weapons, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was established to oversee it. In the same year, the Ottawa Treaty banned the manufacture, stockpiling, and use of antipersonnel land mines. In 2008 cluster munitions were also prohibited, by a treaty that garnered the support of more than a hundred states. The scope of legal obligations doesn’t end with the prohibition of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, however. States have legal obligations to prevent these crimes, protect their victims, and promote compliance with the law. These laws reshaped expectations about how war ought to be conducted and civilians protected from its worst ravages. They established legal limits to what a government can lawfully do to its people. They codified the notion that sovereignty entails legal responsibilities as well as rights.

But these laws always stood in tension with two harsh political realities: First, that in war power tends to matter more than justice, since when the fighting starts actors rarely yield to law and justice alone. Indeed, it is precisely because they disagree about what justice is and what it entails that they fight. Second, that for all the talk of the rights of individuals and groups to protection from atrocity crimes, governments have tended to privilege sovereignty—especially their own—over the protection of basic human rights. There is a good reason for that, for sovereignty and its attendant right to noninterference protects postcolonial and small states from the coercive interference of the powerful and helps maintain a basic condition of orderly conduct among states. The awkward juxtaposition of the humanitarian aspirations expressed in international humanitarian law and a sovereignty-based international order raised difficult practical and ethical questions about what to do when states themselves committed atrocities against sections of their own population. The result was an acute gap between what the law said about how states should behave and how they actually behaved. Genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity persisted, often untroubled by outside interference. This became a matter of global concern after the Cold War and high-profile failures to stem genocide in Rwanda and Srebrenica; mass killing and ethnic cleansing in Angola, Bosnia, Burundi, Croatia, East Timor, Kosovo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Zaire/Democratic Republic of Congo; and state repression in Iraq. Time and again, international society proved unwilling or unable to uphold its own laws in the face of such disasters. The principle of the “responsibility to protect”—or R2P as it has become known—was devised as a way of navigating these dilemmas. Unanimously endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2005, the principle meant that governments recognized they have a responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. They agreed to encourage and help one another fulfill their responsibility. They also pledged to use diplomatic, humanitarian, and other peaceful means to protect populations and decided that when a state is manifestly failing to protect its population from atrocities, the international community has a responsibility to take “timely and decisive action” to do so, using all necessary means through the United Nations Security Council. This commitment was made unanimously by the largest ever gathering of Heads of State and Government at the United Nations in 2005. It was reaffirmed by the General Assembly in 2009 and 2021. At the time of this writing, R2P had featured in ninety-two UN Security Council resolutions and statements and fifty-eight resolutions of the UN Human Rights Council. All this counted for little in Syria.

This book explains how and why the world failed to fulfill its responsibility to protect Syrians. Ultimately, it is a story of priorities, of how other things came to be seen as being more important than protecting Syrians from their government. So-called realists might say that this is inevitable; that we live in a brutal and illiberal world where power matters more than justice and where even trying to stop atrocities in other countries invariably makes things worse. But this takes too much for granted. It ignores evidence that determined action can mitigate and end atrocities.1 And, like all structural theories, it absolves individuals of responsibility for their choices. As I will show, political leaders were presented time and again with choices, and almost every time they chose not to make alleviation of Syria’s suffering their priority. These choices had direct, sometimes immediate, consequences for the lives of Syrians, usually for the worse. Things could have been different. Steps could have been taken to save lives, perhaps even lots of lives. I will show how decision making was guided by shibboleths; false assumptions that were exposed one by one. Chief among them was the conviction that Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, could be persuaded to reform or agree to share power through a political settlement. Foreign actors clung to that belief despite its evident faults even as their peace processes zombified. There were other shibboleths too, about the impossibility of using force to good effect, about the opposition’s inherent extremism, and about Russian good faith.

There are innumerable ways of telling this tragic story, but however one tells it, the central point remains the same: that despite moral imperatives, legal obligations, and our knowledge of what happens when the world turns a blind eye to atrocities, governments and international organizations chose not to prioritize the protection of Syrians because they thought other things were more important. First, Syria’s civilians were betrayed by their own government. To Assad, killing civilians was always a price worth paying for regime survival. Then, they were betrayed by the government’s foreign allies who blocked any meaningful multilateral approach to the crisis. Almost from the start, Assad’s tottering government depended for its survival on foreign allies, principally Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah, cheered on from the sidelines by China and to a lesser extent, at the beginning at least, India, Brazil, and South Africa. Then those who claimed to be the friends of Syria’s people, their most immediate neighbors, betrayed them. For all their posturing, Syria’s Arab neighbors also had other priorities and were often more concerned with their own survival and legitimacy and their regional competition for hegemony, status, and influence, than they were with the plight of Syrians. They competed against one another as much as with Damascus and fostered the fragmentation and radicalism that doomed Syria’s opposition. Turkey stayed the course longer than the others but mainly because it had a Kurdish problem and a refugee crisis to resolve. And then, those states most vociferous in their support for R2P and the principles of protection betrayed Syria’s civilians. The West stridently condemned the violence, demanded reform, and agonized over what to do. Admittedly, the actions of others presented concerned Westerners with few appealing options. But protecting Syria’s civilians was never their main priority either. For the United States at different times, priorities included military withdrawal from the Middle East, combatting Islamist terrorism, rapprochement with Iran, and protecting itself and its allies from the perceived threat posed by refugees fleeing for their lives. For Europeans, distracted by economic crisis and disunity, fear of terrorism and refugees always loomed larger than humanitarian concerns. Priorities shifted, but the protection of Syrian civilians was rarely even close to being at the top of the list. Even the United Nations—the institution entrusted to implement R2P—succumbed. As earnest efforts to negotiate peace crumbled, the organization propped up a zombie peace process that helped Assad while its humanitarian agencies funneled millions of dollars to the government and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of aid to government-controlled areas, despite that same government prohibiting the flow of aid to opposition areas it was besieging, bombarding, and starving. Thus did the United Nations aid and abet a government strategy based on atrocities.

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Syria’s Economy and Sanctions

5 mins read

Syria’s economic situation- particularly in areas held by the Syrian government- has only continued to deteriorate with time, and with this deterioration, living standards have continued to diminish. Perhaps the most familiar indicator of this economic decline is the deterioration of the value of the Syrian pound: one U.S. dollar is now equivalent to more than 5000 Syrian pounds.

The continuing drop in the economic situation and living standards is in turn partly linked to what is one of the most contentious issues of Syria policy: namely, the imposition of extensive Western sanctions on the Syrian government in a bid to put economic pressure on it. The case for sanctions has been most concretely framed in terms of pressuring the government to accept a political ‘transition.’ Yet there is little evidence that this approach is having any success, as there is no sign that the government has made any concrete concessions because of sanctions. Nor has the government indicated any willingness to discuss a ‘transition.’

The sanctions are not the only reason or necessarily the main reason for Syria’s economic and living standards decline. Within government-held areas also, multiple opinions exist regarding the reasons for the downturn in quality of life: some follow the government’s line and complain that the sanctions (often dubbed the ‘economic siege/war on Syria’) are the sole/primary reason, whereas others hold a more complicated view and point to failings on the part of the government.

However, even among the latter camp, there is no suggestion of launching a new ‘revolution’ and mass protest movement in a bid to bring down the government, and while the criticisms of the government policies and corruption can be scathing, they often stop short of criticising the president Bashar al-Assad. Instead of a new ‘revolution’ and mass protest movement, the ongoing deterioration in the economic situation and living standards seems to me (based on my observations of friends inside Syria) to be just prompting more people to leave Syria in a bid to migrate to Turkey and Europe- something that is hardly seen as desirable for these states. Others head to countries like the UAE and Iraq in search of work.

While it should not be imagined that sanctions relief will lead to new economic prosperity for people in Syria, there should be more serious debate about sanctions, particularly when they become very sweeping and broad in nature. Specifically, what are the aims and goals? If there are concrete goals and aims, are they actually achievable through sanctions? If not, then what is the point behind them? Are they simply imposed to make it seem as though ‘something is being done’ and feel better about oneself? Is such catharsis appropriate in a policy context, particularly in light of their costs for the ordinary population? Should sanctions relief aimed at lessening the burdens on the ordinary population necessarily be equated with ‘normalisation’ and somehow giving money to the government?

The interview below was conducted on 29 October 2022 with a friend who resided in Idlib until not too long ago and currently resides in Jaramana, Damascus, where he has recently opened a store selling goods. This friend subscribes to the view that sanctions are the main cause of Syria’s woes in economy and living standards. The interview is slightly edited and condensed for clarity. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.

Q: Can you speak about your shop and the types of goods you are selling and their prices?

A: I have rented a very small shop: 4 [square] metres approximately in a simple neighbourhood in the town of Jaramana. The value of the rent is 62,000 Syrian pounds [monthly] which equates to 12 dollars. Note that the renting of shops in the streets of Jaramana in Damascus countryside reaches 100 dollars. I have put on display in it some food goods and cleaning items only: i.e. very necessary items. The prices of the food goods in Syria are continually rising every week more or less because of the decline in the value of the Syrian pound. From here one knows that the purchase rate is declining daily.

Q: Could you give me the prices of some of the goods in your shop today?

A: Spicy sardines: 36,000 Syrian pounds. Litre of plant oil: 16,000. Kilo of children’s milk, the type of our milk: 27,000. Half kilo of handkerchiefs: 7,000.

Q: In your opinion and the opinion of the people of Jaramana, what are the reasons for the rise in prices?

A: Solely the economic siege on the state imposed by America and its followers, as well as what is known as the Caesar Law. In addition the American occupier’s occupation of the Syrian Jazeera area represented in the provinces of Hasakah and Raqqa and the richer portion economically of Deir al-Zor (because of the resources these areas possess) is certainly the reason.

Q: Can you speak about the impacts of the sanctions on your life?

A: They have almost entirely destroyed my life. Like me are 90% of the people of Syria and not only Jaramana. I used to receive a salary in 2010 of 18,500 Syrian pounds: i.e. what equates to 350 dollars. This was solely by the grace and efforts of Mr. President Bashar al-Assad. But what happened in Syria under the moniker of freedom was the beginning of the destruction of my precious state Syria. Let all know that I am a primary school teacher and I am not a political actor in my state. Rather I speak the truth and God is witness to my words.

Q: There are those who say that the sanctions and economic pressure will lead to a political transition and realisation of justice in Syria. What is your opinion on that?

A: I as a Syrian citizen speak for myself only. I say that this is a mistaken theory and will not hit the mark and will not bring about benefit. The Syrians have offered thousands of martyrs to protect Syria and its great president. They will not yield to material matters whatever the price may be. For the economy will improve if God wills by the efforts of the people and the government.

Q: Do you have a message to the West regarding the sanctions?

A: My message is political and not economic. Oh good humanitarian peoples, and I have no quarrel with your humanity. Rise up against your political rulers, tear them our from their roots, and make rule belong to humanitarianism in Europe. I also tell you: you must liberate yourselves from your servitude to America immediately before it’s too late. I mean here what the war in Ukraine will come to.

Q: And the sanctions must be lifted?

A: Of course Mr. Aymenn. When I ask them to be liberated and rid of servitude, the sanctions will of course be lifted.

Q: And you as a person displaced from Idlib originally, what is the truth of the situation there?

A: The truth I know well because I was living there until recently: the group of gangs large in number and supported by the same states that impose the economic sanctions on the state are the ones that rule a people who yearn for freedom: that is, freedom to live with the state, and not the freedom that their rulers and their supporters claim in Idlib and northern Syria. I am wholly confident that 85% of the people of Idlib and the north want to return to the Syrian state: their state in whose embraces they were raised and in whose universities they studied.