Dr. Ibrahim Alloush to ST: US-Imposed Blockade on Syria Should Become a Political Problem for Arab Regimes that Abide by this Blockade

Damascus, (ST)-What the Syrian people are going through economically is a continuation of the war they have been going through since 2011 by other means, according to the Arab political intellectual and University of Damascus economist Dr. Ibrahim Alloush, who has elaborated on the causes of the current oil crisis in Syria and how the country can survive it.

“The current oil crisis in Syria is the result of compounded factors. On one hand, the war partially or totally destroyed much of the infrastructure of the energy sector in Syria, including the Conoco gas plant in DeirEz-zour, which was targeted repeatedly by the US, always under the pretext of “fighting terrorism”!  It just so happens that both the terrorists and the so-called “Global Coalition against terrorism” have effectively coalesced to destroy Syria’s oil and gas installations all over the country,” he said in an interview with the Syria Times e-newspaper.  

Dr. Alloush made it clear that the destruction caused considerable diminishment of Syria’s productive capacity compared to 2010.

“Work is ongoing at a rapid pace to rehabilitate oil and gas fields that have been reclaimed from the hands of terrorists by the Syrian Arab Army and allies. But obviously what has taken decades to build, and months to destroy, cannot be revamped in a few weeks.  Still, these efforts could barely keep up with the increased demand in areas liberated from terrorists, especially with the beginning of the return of Syrian refugees and the re-ignition of economic activity in the country,” he stated.

Moreover, the economist referred to the fact that foreign investment in the energy sector has been particularly hit by EU and other sanctions against Syria.

“EU and other sanctions targeting the energy sector in Syria have prodded Anglo-Dutch Shall, Total, and Gulf sands to halt operations in Syria early on in 2011 and 2012.  Foreign investment in the energy sector has been particularly hit by sanctions, most recently by the so-called Caesar’s Law enacted by the US Congress.   The objective of these sanctions, among other things, is to impede Syria’s ability to rebuild and rehabilitate its ailing energy sector,” Dr. Alloush said.

He went on to say: “ To add insult to injury, economic sanctions targeting the importation of energy products into Syria have been tightened to a halt recently in an attempt to suffocate the Syrian economy.  Oil tankers are prevented from reaching Syria.  Neighboring states have succumbed to US pressure to ban trade in energy products with Syria.  Thus, the tightened and strict enforcement of a total ban on importing energy products into Syria by the US and its allies is the primary reason for the current crunch in the energy sector.  Granted, shortages have existed before.  However, the US is making sure they get worse, thus discrediting every pretense the US and its allies have made about caring for the welfare of the Syrian people.”

The intellectual mentioned another factor related to the fact that the US is making sure that “Syrian Democratic Forces” militias continue to maintain control over the region of Eastern Euphrates, where most Syrian oil and gas deposits lie, in order to deprive the Syrian people and economy of the energy (and agricultural and water) resources they need to rebuild. 

“So it all really boils down to US policy,” he affirmed.

How can Syria survive?

In response to a question about how Syria can survive this energy crisis, Dr. Alloush said: “First of all, the Syrian people need to understand that what they are going through economically is a continuation of the war they have been going through since 2011 by other means.  It’s an economic blockade basically, a form of war, and it’s being perpetrated by the US and its allies.  Rationing is common in wars.  For example in WWII, Britain, the Soviet Union and other countries have resorted to rationing as common practice.  In short, there is no substitute for weathering it out while we look carefully at practical solutions to what has grown into a hideous and vexing problem for the people of Syria.”

He believes that practical solutions include quickening the pace of rehabilitating oil and gas fields and installations destroyed by the war.  He added that producing heat or electricity via relatively inexpensive technology by relying on solar energy is quite viable.  He asserted that quicker solutions include giving some leeway to private individuals and companies, both Syrian and non-Syrian, to import energy products into Syria “by any means necessary”, as a matter of survival and national security, and allowing them to sell those energy products as the market will bear. 

“Another solution would be to clear the land route between Syria and Iran through Iraq, which is taking place right now, via railroad tracks and what have you.  But that would take longer, and is not immune to attacks from the US or “Israel,” Dr. Alloush added.

He underlined that allies, especially Russian allies, should not stand, hat in hand, watching Syria reeling from this gruesome blockade. 

“There are two ways the embargo on importing energy products into Syria could be lifted: either Russia can go ahead and break it directly, or it can provide a staunch political cover for the Syrian Arab Army to reclaim the oil and gas fields of Eastern Euphrates. A political cover means making sure that NATO doesn’t interfere, not that Russia needs to get involved militarily. In both cases Russia’s role is crucial, and it is not much to ask, considering that it was the Syrian theater which allowed Russia to rise to prominence regionally.” 

Furthermore, the intellectual described the violation of unjustly imposed sanctions, as was the case in Iraq and Libya before, and as is the case in Syria, Iran, and Yemen right now, as a ‘moral act’.

“It’s an act of defiance against injustice, and against the law of jungle in international relations.  This message should be relayed to fellow citizens across the Arab World and to anti-imperialists worldwide.  Imposing a blockade on Syria should become a political problem for Arab regimes who abide by this US-imposed blockade.  Fellow Arabs should be made to understand that yesterday it was Iraq and Libya, today it is Syria and Yemen, but tomorrow it will be them,” the intellectual concluded.  

It is true that cars line up by the hundred outside petrol stations in Syria and long lines of people waiting to buy gas begin forming before dawn, but the fuel crisis has not brought life to a halt in Syrian cities as some western media reports claim.

Interviewed by: Basma Qaddour