Sanctions galore!…as US spins out of control


SANCTIONS have become one of the popular tools for ‘punishing’ those who do not see eye-to-eye with the US.
Wars are expensive, both politically and economically; as such sanctions have become the next best thing.
Why send troops on the ground when sanctions can do just as much damage as conventional arsenal at a cheaper cost.
With sanctions, Americans do not have to bury their sons and daughters who would have died in combat in some far off country, fighting a war that does not directly affect the day-to-day lives of the American people.
Casualties of sanctions are the ordinary folk in the sanctioned countries.
While the US seeks to hide behind a finger by claiming that most of its sanctions programmes have no direct effect on the ordinary citizens in targeted countries, the opposite is very true.
In January 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order extending sanctions on the Western Balkans, imposed first by former President George W. Bush in 2001, to protect US national security.
“The actions of persons threatening the peace and international stabilisation efforts in the Western Balkans, including acts of extremist violence and obstructionist activity, continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the US,” said Bush then.
Former President George W. Bush first imposed the sanctions as a response to ‘extremist violence’ in Macedonia and elsewhere in the Western Balkans region.
With his signature, Trump also extended sanctions on the president of the Serb Republic, Milorad Dodik, imposed earlier by the US State Department.
Interestingly, Dodik seems to be afflicted with the same illness that President Trump suffers from.
Dodik has been quoted several times bemoaning that there are ‘too many mosques’ and that the Muslim calls to prayer are noise pollution.
He certainly has a clear case of Islamophobia.
We all know the one person in the US who displays such attitudes towards Muslims.
From 2004 to 2017, the US sanctioned Belarus 17 times; this included sanctions on individuals and entities.
Ten of those were related to the issues of international security and the non-proliferation of weapons (mostly after Belarus contacted with Iranian companies), and five times Belarus was mentioned in reference to the issues of democracy and violations of human rights.
Presently, sanctions against Belarus have to do with “…serious violations of human rights and democracy.”
Usually, when a country is penalised by the US for violation of human rights and democracy, that is a code for ‘the regime change agenda is not going as planned and needs to be boosted by some economic sanctions.’
Burundi, Central African Republic, Cuba, DRC, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, North Korea, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Russia, Venezuela, Yemen, Zimbabwe, Colombia, Ukraine, Palestinian Authority and Ivory Coast are some of the countries which are currently under sanctions from the US.
These sanctions can be direct, indirect, at specific entities or individuals, but the ultimate goal remains the same, that each nation reaches a breaking point and as learnt in the case of Zimbabwe, “…separate the people of Zimbabwe from ZANU PF.”
The damaging consequences of sanctions on individuals, education institutions and business are testimonies to the effectiveness of sanctions in bringing countries to their knees.
World class institutions such as Stanford University have a whole section that helps faculties to navigate the intricate challenges posed by US sanctions in interacting with other institutions and entities from around the country.
Universities are the fountains from which young minds drink from and open them to worlds, cultures, beliefs and new knowledge.
So when the US denies its students opportunities to interact with their peers based on political differences between governments, it is doing a great disservice to students and future generations.
US students are restricted from shipping to, travelling to, transacting with, trading in specified goods, technologies and services with specific organisations (including foreign governments) and persons and countries.
For years, US students and other citizens have been circumventing the ban on travel to Cuba for the purpose of tourism by their government through academic licenses.
To be eligible to travel to Cuba for educational activities under the OFAC regulations, the students would need to be sponsored by their respective universities and have to be participating in a “…structured educational programme” in Cuba as part of a course offered for credit by the institution and travelling to Cuba to engage in meetings, attend lectures or performances, conduct interviews, visit museums and archives or pursue other learning experiences as part of that course.
Cuba makes an interesting study because hard-line anti-Communist Cuban-Americans and Washington have always pushed the narrative that Cuba is one of the worst places on earth – repression, communism and the Castro bogeyman are just part of the propaganda the US has been feeding its citizens for years in regards to Cuba.
Travel for tourism purposes to Cuba by US citizens has been a no-no because it would debunk some of the assertions against that country.
Worse still, tourism would translate into genuine US greenbacks in the Cuban economy.
If there is one thing sanctions are supposed to accomplish, it is to ensure that the economy of a targeted nation remains depressed.
For all its talk of freedom, the US ban on travel for the purpose of tourism to Cuba is an infringement on the rights of Americans to travel where and when they want to.
It is not as though Americans are in any unusual danger in Cuba.
As for those of us, people of colour, we are certainly safer on Havana’s streets than on most streets in America.
On the other side of the world, Europe is grappling with the effects of sanctions imposed on Iran.
The EU is preparing for the hit its economies will have to absorb once the full weight of Washington’s punitive measures comes into effect in the fourth quarter of this year.
The US’ intentions are clear: Cut off Iranian oil from the market entirely and reduce Tehran’s financial power.
As oil prices rise, however, the White House’s policy looks set to hurt more countries than just Iran.
There is a clause in the latest round of sanctions that gives the US the right to sanction any entity doing business with Iran.
And this has forced many companies to pull out of Iran or risk losing access to the US markets.
Many are looking at losses numbering in the billions as long-term investment deals concluded at the signing of the nuclear deal are rendered void.
Analysts have pointed out that as foreign firms are closing down their operations in Iran, a sanctions-induced oil price surge is already hurting America’s allies, particularly the EU.
The bloc is reliant on oil imports for 98 percent of demand, and with the Euro continuing to perform poorly against the dollar, the impact of rising prices will only be magnified.
Higher oil prices are hitting Germany, the continent’s economic powerhouse, especially hard.
Its export-based economy is highly vulnerable to commodity shocks, which lead to higher unemployment because they drag down industrial productivity.
French giant Total SA signed a US$5 billion 20-year agreement in 2017 with Iran to develop the vast South Pars offshore natural gas field. Now, the firm is scrambling to divest from its Iranian assets before the US-imposed November 4 deadline, after it became clear that no exemption would be granted for its operations.
Commenting on the developments, Energy expert Scott Belinski said:
“Donald Trump’s flurry of sanctions should be seen for what they are: an existential threat to the EU and to the countless firms that hold up the struggling Eurozone.
One can only hope the Europeans will not waver in their determination to stand up to the White House.”


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