As long as major powers like the U.S., Russia and Germany are delivering weapons to their allies in the region “having representatives of the same countries sitting around a table in their nice suits talking about peace isn't going to go very far. (…) So when we hear these things like: ‘Oh we all want to end this war’, ‘No one wants this war’ - It’s an absolute lie! The people who want this war are the people who profit from this war: the arms manufacturers, the military contractors. They are in all senses of the word ‘making a killing’ on this war”. The sanctions against Syria would again hurt the most vulnerable not those in power. The U.S. and other major powers have not learned the lessons from Iraq, says Bennis. The boycott of Iraq in the 90ies is responsible for killing 500,000 children under the age of five.
Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies, Washington D.C.
David Goessmann: Since 2011 there is an embargo in placed on Syria, mainly enforced by the US and the European Union. Internal assessments just obtained by “The Intercept” reveal that these sanctions by the US and the EU are punishing ordinary Syrians and crippling aid work during the largest humanitarian emergency since WWII. Your comment on that?
Phyllis Bennis: As we are seeing now, no lessons have been learned. The US and other major powers have not learned the lessons of Iraq. In Iraq we had 12 years of crippling economic sanctions. That did nothing to dislodge the regime but was responsible for killing 500,000 children under the age of five, in Iraq. That's in between the two Iraq wars. In Syria, economic sanctions are inevitably going to attack the most vulnerable, not the most powerful. That's who maintains power when there are sanctions imposed. That's who always gets enough to eat. It's the poorest people, the people with the least access to power that are effected by economic sanctions, where food is included, medicine is included, basic necessities are included. What we are not seeing in Syria is what's needed: an arms embargo on all sides. We don't need an economic embargo. We need an arms embargo. Because that's what every side is ignoring. Any call for an arms embargo. They're flooding the place with arms. The place is awash in arms. It's just not awash in fresh water, in electricity, in medicine.
David Goessmann: Germany is delivering arms to Saudi Arabia. And Saudi Arabia is probably delivering arms to Syria.
Phyllis Bennis: Absolutely. The US is the largest supplier to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the US's largest arms customer. So when we hear these things (like) “oh we all want to end this war”, “no one wants this war” – absolute lie! It's an absolute lie. The people who want this war are the people who profit from this war. The arms manufacturers, the military contractors. They are in all senses of the word “making a killing” on this was. And they want it to continue. They want the Saudis to continue to buy tens of millions, billions of Dollars worth of arms from the United States. If they didn't have wars, they'd be forced to produce solar panels instead of guns in their factories. Why would they do that? Because they think they will make a bigger profit selling guns.
David Goessmann: Why is it so hard to find a diplomatic settlement in Syria?
Phyllis Bennis: I think all diplomacy is hard to impossible when the war is going on. This war is particularly complicated because part of it is a civil war, which is always more violent and worse in many ways than any other kinds of wars, that's been true throughout history. But the other side is that it is being fed, and armed, and fed and fed and fed, and paid for and paid for and paid for by outside actors. The same actors that would have to take the initiative on the diplomacy. So each side is saying: "We'll negotiate as soon as we get in a better position militarily. We just want to take a little more land – which of course means killing a lot more people – then we'll sit down and talk.” So we first need an arms embargo an a cease fire to move towards Syria's diplomacy, you can call all the talks you want, and the UN has been really heroic in trying to do that, but as long as major players are saying: "Yeah yeah, we'll talk, we'll talk, we'll send some low-level diplomats while the high-power diplomats and the high officials are dealing with the war.” That's why it's not going to work. You can't just keep fighting and keep allowing these major powerful countries to sell arms to smaller regional allies to ship them right into Syria. You know, saying that, what we hear in the United States for instance, is: "Well, if we stopped shipping arms to the Saudis, they would just buy them from China and Russia." First of all, that's not true. Not because they wouldn't want to, but because their entire military system is geared to US specifications. You can't just replace them without building an entirely new military, even the Saudi Arabian oil is not enough money to do that. The other part of it is: They're using those weapons as proxies. They're sending these weapons to their supporters on the grounds inside Syria. They're not using them to defend Saudi Arabia. They are using them – we should be very clear – in Yemen, causing on of the worst humanitarian crisis in the entire region with over 6000 people killed, hundreds of thousands dependent on UN food aid for bare survival. Yemen is a complete disaster right now. Because of the Saudi attacks. Which the US is enabling, helping to pay for and providing the arms for. So if we look at where the arms are going: it's going from the major powers, from the US, from Germany, from Russia, from other places right to their regional allies and straight into Syria. As long as that's the case, having representatives of the same countries sitting around a table in their nice suits talking about peace isn't going to go very far.