Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The ‘MENA’ region and the International Monetary Fund  To understand what is currently happening in Syria it’s also necessary to see what Syria was like before 2011. What was Syria like before, politically and economically? There, we find Western European and US leadership circles focusing on the MENA region (Middle East/North Africa). We find a series of sanctions placed on Syria by the US/EU nexus. We find the International Monetary Fund continuously demanding uniform economic policies, drawing those countries and regions into its financial system. We find the IMF waiting for its opportunity to move in. Syria before 2011 Syria, like Iraq, Libya and Iran, had followed an economic model that was more state-centered. Syria established a central bank, rather than banks that are subsidiaries of large international consortiums. Syria maintained subsidization policies providing low cost food items and transportation petrol, heating and cooking fuel, along with low cost or free university education and health care, public transportation. Whatever other internal policies have been deemed repressive by certain segments of the population, it is clear that many economic policies, state-directed, had provided support in terms of basic and beyond-basic services to millions.Though exporting less oil in comparison to other countries in the MENA region (e.g. Libya, Iraq and Iran), Syria’s oil industry has still accounted for anywhere between 16 to 25% of its budgetary income over the years, with Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands among its customers. To finance infrastructural projects, Syria had borrowed monies from Eastern European countries and strategic-partner Russia, as well as Western Europe and from IMF-brokered loans and US aid for infrastructural projects in the hundreds of millions of dollars in the 1970s and 1980s when Syria was run by Bashar al-Asad’s father, Hafez al-Asad. But, in contrast to many other countries of the world ranked as ‘lower middle income countries’ by the IMF, Syria was able to avoid the deep sinkhole of debilitating and long term debt. The reason for this lies with Syria over the years receiving aid-grants from Libya, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which it did not have to pay back. The largest amount Syria owed was to the Soviet Union, now Russia, where 80% of its $13 billion debt was written off by Russia in 2005. [1]

In fact, Syria has managed to steadily reduce its ‘long term external debt’, according to a recent World Bank report, from a 1995 high of $16.995 billion to a turn-around drop in 2005 to $ 5.007 billion, mostly due to the Russian write off of 80% of Syria’s debt, to the 2010 figure of $ 4.171 billion. But what is most interesting is that in the category labeled ‘use of IMF credit’ in this same report, all that can be seen are a row of zeros from 1995 to 2010, meaning that Syria did not rely on the IMF for any loans for that fifteen year period. [2] Syria, like Iran and Libya, is not beholden to the IMF/World Bank for any loans, which would seem to be an unusual phenomenon in our present era of ‘globalization’.
US and Western Pressures on Syria and the MENA countries

In one form or another, Syria and other MENA countries such as Libya, Iraq and Iran have been subjected to intense political and military pressures which have been both covertly and overtly engineered by the US and certain allied countries. It was the Neocon planners’ focus on the Middle East prior to the 9/11 event in 2001 (e.g. the US-based ‘Energy Infrastructure Planning Group’ or EIPG), which led to the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, followed by US sponsorship and arming of opposition forces in Libya and Syria, intense and widespread sanctions policies on Iran backed by the EU, the Gulf sheikdoms and Turkey, and continuous military actions and threats by the US and Israel.The US has aggressively applied and advocated continuous sanctions policies against Syria for its military and political presence in Lebanon up to 2005. Yet, it has been internationally agreed upon and recognized that Syria had played a stabilizing role in Lebanon when various armed factions, some aligned with Israel in its invasion of that country in 1982, had created absolute chaos and destruction, including the massacre of Palestinian men, women and children in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla by the Phalangists. It was the presence of the Syrian armed forces that helped to stabilize the country after 15 years of war, beginning in 1975 and ending in 1990. [3]
But these rationalizations cover up the actual goal of internationally-based institutions and elites for certain desired economic outcomes. Economic pressures have been applied to Syria for some time, intersecting with the other pressures applied to this country. Two months before the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the US continued its pressure on Syria when Congress passed in January the ‘Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act’, condemning Syria’s political and military presence in Lebanon. The US led the way in 2005 in targeting Syria’s nationalized bank, the Commercial Bank of Syria; by specifically placing this bank under sanctions, which was added onto the US Patriot Act. The US charged that the bank was involved in ‘money laundering’; a charge usually associated with gangster-like financial activity and that could just as easily be applied to banks in the Americas needing to be investigated, which would of course include US banks, within an atmosphere of immense profits being created by the narcotics industry using front companies or personalities to open accounts. But in the case of Syria, the money laundering charge was levied against the Syrian government for accounts that were tied to regional and well known political players Hamas and Hezbollah, both branded as ‘terrorist’ organizations by the US, but which are in opposition to US and Israeli actions and policies in the region. The charge, then, can be clearly seen to be politically motivated.

[ed notes:click link for whole article..

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