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U.S. State Department threatens the “Damascus International Fair”

Steven Sahiounie, Middle East observer

The U.S. Embassy in Damascus has been closed for 8 years, but their Facebook page is still active.  Recently, they posted a direct threat at anyone who might participate in the “Damascus International Fair”, which was founded in 1954 and is the oldest fair of its type in the Middle East. 

The United States does not at all encourage businesses or individuals to participate in the #Damascus International Trade Fair on August 28th. …. Businesses or individuals who plan to participate in the Damascus International Trade Fair must be aware that if they make business transactions with the Assad regime or associated with it, they may also be subject to us sanctions. Members of the public who have information about any business companies or individuals planning to participate in the trade fair on August 28 in Damascus Can submit this information to the us authorities by email, by sending it to a monitoring office Foreign assets of the us department of treasury…”

The typical international company coming to show its products in Damascus is hoping for orders from private businesses, not the Syrian government.  The Syrian government asks for bids for products and services to be sold to the government.  For example, there are huge turbine engines on the hydro-electric dam in the east of Syria, and should they need repairs, replacement, or parts the Syrian government will publish bids, and international companies will submit their bid to get the job.  A European company making medical products for sale to private hospitals and pharmacies is not doing business with the Syrian President, or any branch of the Syrian government.  The types of products shown at an international trade fair are so vast that it may offer items from French make-up to Japanese car-parts and everything in between. The notion that the sanctions on Syria are ‘targeted’ in the sense that they only affect ‘officials’ is the oldest lie used to justify economic warfare.

The 61st “Damascus International Fair” will open August 28th and run until September 6th.  This year’s slogan is “From Damascus…to the World”.  Last year’s fair saw the participation of 1,700 exhibitors, including Syrians and 48 foreign exhibitors, which included some Arab nations.   Arriving soon in Damascus will be a 40 member delegation from the UAE, and a 35 member delegation from Oman.   

Visa, Mastercard and Paypal all suspended services to Syria in August 2011, by way of Executive Order 13582 by the US Treasury, prohibiting US persons (corporate entities included) from providing any services to Syria, which blocks the Syrians living abroad from sending money to their families in Syria, suffering the effects of war and western sanctions.

Dr. Nabil Antaki, who works in Aleppo said, “We are disgusted by these sanctions because these sanctions and these embargoes have not been implemented against the Syrian government but the Syrian people, all the Syrian people”. He also said, “I wanted to replace one part of a piece of medical equipment. Normally this would take one week, it took a year and a half to get hold of the part because we couldn’t import it from Japan as it was a multi-national company,”  Dr. Tony Sayegh, also in Aleppo said, “something that makes life even tougher are the economic sanctions that the US and EU have imposed on Syria. The sanctions do not hit the government but the people”.

The Syrian people have suffered under EU and U.S. sanctions for eight years, which have prevented life-saving cancer drugs from being imported, and which have kept Syrians freezing in their homes unable to have heating oil while snowdrifts are outside from Aleppo to Damascus in winter.  The sanctions have caused Syrians to park their cars, unable to buy gasoline which at times has put taxi and bus drivers and their families close to starvation.

The Syrian war is over, and the time to rebuild Syria has arrived, but the sanctions prevent importing supplies to rebuild infrastructure and homes.  The western media abound with propaganda articles claiming all the hospitals are bombed or are being bombed. Dr. Bashar Jaafari, Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations repeated more than once in his statements at the UNSC meetings discussing the ‘humanitarian situation’ in Syria that the Syrian Ministry of Health is not allowed to purchase threads used by surgeons to sew open wounds in medical-surgical operations.  Repairing and maintaining the Syrian healthcare infrastructure is not important to Americans or Europeans; however, demonizing the Syrian government is of paramount importance to Americans and European citizens, who are the voters in their free and democratically elected nations, and have not mounted an effective resistance to the western sanctions, which are making the Syrian people suffer.