The US government announced on 13 September that it would release a significant portion of the $7 billion stolen Afghan central bank funds to a bank of international settlements in Basel, Switzerland. The trusteeship will help the US to oversee the disbursements of the funds in order to bypass the Taliban government in Kabul. Washington withdrew its financial support for Afghanistan, following the Taliban victory against the US-trained army in 2021. Besides harsh economic sanctions, the US government also froze the funds of Afghanistan’s Central Bank, causing a widespread humanitarian crisis in the country. However, the Taliban rejects the plan of the US to transfer the funds to a Bank of international settlements, arguing that “the [Da Afghanistan Bank] funds belong to DAB and should be returned to Afghanistan,” according to Suhail Shaheen, a spokesperson for the Taliban.
Claiming that unilateral coercive measures taken by the US and some of its allies against Iran had harmed ordinary Iranians’ rights to employment, health, and food, the UN Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan demanded the withdrawal of all such sanctions immediately and proposed mechanisms to prevent such measures being taken in the future. Douhan’s report on Iran was released on Monday, September 12. Douhan, a professor of international law, told Iranian news website Tehran Times in an interview on Monday that, contrary to claims by countries who pursue such policies, “ordinary people are directly affected by the sanctions.” She also drew attention in the interview to the work the Iranian state was doing for the millions of refugees in the country from Afghanistan and elsewhere.
European countries, as well as the United States, continue to be imperiled by an economic crisis following the imposition of sanctions on Russia. The policy has backfired spectacularly and has had worse economic ramifications on those levying the sanctions, than those being sanctioned. In this week’s episode, Lowkey speaks to respected U.S. economist Dr. Richard Wolff, discussing the links between the war in Ukraine, inflation, and the class war at home. Before exploring the people’s definition of inflation, Dr. Wolff contextualizes the economic crisis currently unfolding across the West. In the conversation, Lowkey and Dr. Richard Wolff expose ways economic policy can be a code term for class war. They delve into the way the cost of enmity towards Russia is being placed on the shoulders of the working class in the West, which recently experienced one of the worst crashes of capitalism in its history.
What right does the United States have to starve civilians to achieve political goals? Despite its obvious importance, this question is largely absent from mainstream discourse. Through economic sanctions, or economic warfare, the U.S. can unilaterally collapse economies and generate famine in foreign countries. The civilian death toll from sanctions is often equal to—and sometimes greater than—the toll from conventional warfare. Yet on both sides of the aisle, it is taken for granted that we have the “right” to impose destitution on civilian populations in order to advance our interests. The U.S. administers two types of sanctions: primary and secondary sanctions.
Last week, US President Joe Biden extended for one more year the sanctions on Cuba, arguing the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917. This mechanism has been used for the last 60 years to back the countless sanctions that make up the US blockade against Cuba. This time, Biden only limited himself to saying that it was a “matter of interest to the United States.” By a stroke of the pen, he condemned the Cuban people to continue to suffer all the economic shortages caused by the blockade. Sanctioning and playing with the welfare of millions of people, with their very lives, seems to be a reflex action of US political class.
"We consider the IAEA's demands excessive because their implementation is impossible due to the sanctions," Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) spokesman Behruz Kamalvandi said Tuesday. The spokesman explained that the "Strategic Action to Lift Sanctions" law, approved in November 2020 by the Iranian Parliament, implies that the UN nuclear agency will have minimal oversight within the framework of safeguards mechanisms. However, he said that if Westerners lift anti-Iranian sanctions and accomplish their commitments, Iran will also return to the original promises made under the 2015 nuclear deal, officially named the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
France’s President Emmanuel Macron, a former banker, warned that “we are living the end of what could have seemed an era of abundance,” calling it “a kind of major tipping point or a great upheaval.” Western wars and sanctions are boomeranging back at home. The neoliberal phase of capitalism is collapsing. Neoliberalism has lost the key pillars it was built on: cheap energy and raw materials from Russia, cheap labor and consumer goods from China, an unsustainable bubble of household debt, low to zero interest rates, and Washington’s ability to organize regime-change operations in any country where a government tried a socialistic or state-led economic model.
From the look of it, the US-Iran rapprochement is getting on to a bumpy start. The usage ‘rapprochement’ is deliberate – and will be disputed – because in the near term at least, what can be expected if an agreement is indeed reached in Vienna, which is an open question, can only be a state of cordial relations between the two countries, no longer hostile but not yet friendly either. In an insightful interview with the PBS recently, the US Special Representative for Iran Robert Malley, the chief negotiator at the talks in Vienna, eschewed any form of threats against Iran even while projecting that the Biden administration has driven a hard bargain at Vienna. The fact that Malley sounded bullish even before an agreement has been reached comes as surprise. Perhaps, Malley needed to hang tough, as the optics have a bearing on the national mood in the US and Israel.
The government of US President Joe Biden has decided not to return Afghanistan’s foreign reserves and suspended talks with Taliban officials over the issue. “We do not see recapitalization of the Afghan central bank as a near-term option,” US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West told the Wall Street Journal on 15 August, exactly one year after the Taliban took control of Kabul. “We do not have confidence that that institution has the safeguards and monitoring in place to manage assets responsibly,” the US official added. The decision is allegedly related to the US drone strike that killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul last month. “Needless to say, the Taliban’s sheltering of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri reinforces deep concerns we have regarding diversion of funds to terrorist groups,” West told the Journal.
Venezuelan authorities have blasted the latest court ruling in the struggle for control over 31 tonnes of gold stored in the Bank of England (BoE). On Friday, the High Court of England and Wales decided in favor of opposition politician Juan Guaidó and dismissed a new effort by the Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV) to regain control over the reserves worth an estimated US $1.7 billion. Caracas had brought to court the Venezuelan Supreme Court decrees stating that the parallel BCV board appointed by the US-backed opposition was illegal. However, judge Sara Cockerill decreed that the British Court could not recognize the rulings made by Venezuela’s highest judicial instance. Since late 2018, the Bank of England has refused BCV requests to repatriate the gold reserves.
On June 18 the government of Lithuania acted on a decision by the European Commission that goods and cargo subject to European Union sanctions could be prohibited from transiting between one part of Russia to another, so long as they passed through E.U. territory. Almost immediately Lithuania moved to block Russia from shipping certain categories of goods and materials by rail to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, encompassing the former East Prussian Baltic port city of Konigsberg and its surrounding environs. They were absorbed into Russia proper as a form of war reparations at the end of the Second World War. Lithuania cited its legal obligation as an E.U. member to enforce E.U. sanctions targeting Russia. Russia, citing a 2002 treaty with Lithuania which ostensibly prohibits such an action, has called the Lithuanian move a blockade and has threatened a military response.
Multipolarista host Benjamin Norton speaks with Venezuelan journalist Jesús Rodríguez Espinoza, editor of independent news outlet the Orinoco Tribune, about the victory of left-wing candidate Gustavo Petro in Colombia’s presidential election, the easing of a few US sanctions, and Venezuela’s 20-year cooperation agreement with Iran.
US sanctions, even by outdated estimates, have killed tens of thousands of Venezuelans. The unilateral policies have been widely condemned by multilateral bodies and human rights experts for their deadly impact, as well as for violating international law (Venezuelanalysis, 9/18/21, 9/15/21, 3/25/21, 1/31/19). But corporate media readers/viewers in the Global North are completely oblivious to this reality, as establishment outlets have gone out of their way to endorse sanctions by whitewashing their effects altogether (FAIR.org, 6/4/21, 12/19/20)—writing for example, that Washington has “sanctioned the government” (AP, 5/21/22) rather than the people of Venezuela. A recent policy opening, microscopic to begin with and closed quickly enough, put all these dishonest traits on display, illustrating how free a rein US officials have to continue inflicting collective punishment on Venezuelans without challenge or scrutiny.
The United States continues to shoot itself in the foot in its futile effort to damage the Russian economy. It is also asking other nations to do likewise and live with inflation, food scarcity, and rising energy prices. European countries have gone along with the sanctions which cut off their natural gas supplies from Russia when there is no logical alternative source for them. However, the rest of the world has refused to join in U.S. and EU condemnations or accept that they must live with privations caused by the reckless actions of other nations. Of course, the ongoing state of delusion just continues the fantasy foreign policy decision making in Washington. The Countering Malign Russian Influences in Africa Act, HR 7311 , is just one example.
U.S. government strategists are using sanctions as a wrecking ball to demolish the globalized economy. It is a desperate struggle to preserve their global hegemony and a unipolar world. The policy of consciously demolishing supply chains of essential products amounts to a reckless war on defenseless civilian populations. Sanctions disrupt trade worldwide and send shockwaves far beyond the countries directly targeted. This is well understood by financial planners. “Food shortages — it’s going to be real,” President Joe Biden said in Brussels March 25 at a NATO press conference, an ominous warning reported around the world. “The price of the sanctions is not just imposed upon Russia. It’s imposed upon an awful lot of countries as well, including European countries and our country as well.”