The Sunday Mail
THE United States of America (US) Department of the Treasury in October 2021, published a report, titled, The Treasury 2021 Sanctions Review. This followed an evaluation of America’s economic and financial sanctions with a view to ensuring that they remained effective in advancing American national security and enforcing its foreign policy.
Although the report is now a public document, which is available on the internet, its contents were eye-opening in terms of exposing Washington’s use of sanctions to maintain its hegemonic stranglehold on some countries of the world in the name of fighting alleged global threats such as human rights violations and repression.
In the report, the Treasury Department claimed that the main objective of the use of sanctions was ostensibly an effort to address “threats to…national security, foreign policy and (the) economy of the United States.” However, it is clear that the measures are part of that country’s statecraft tools to maintain its hegemony on the world. The sanctions are used to destabilise targeted countries, as a precursor to military intervention with the ultimate aim of effecting regime change as has been the case with Venezuela, Libya and, lately, Russia.
The Treasury Department’s consultation process, as given in the report gives away the US’ modus operandi. This involves recruiting and funding local foot soldiers, such as opposition political parties and civil society organisations (CSOs) using bodies such as the USAID.
These are then used to push the US’ regime change agenda using concepts such as democracy and human rights. The foot soldiers are also consulted when targeted individuals are being placed under sanctions or when the US is carrying out annual reviews of its sanctions against certain targets.
In addition, the report brought to the fore the strategic role of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in the US’ sanctions regime.
OFAC’s role is to act as a vehicle for economic strangulation of the targeted individuals and countries to cause pain for the US’ political gain. The objective is to achieve regime change by making the economy “scream” and thereby turn the people against their governments using tools such as protests against the resultant socio-economic challenges.
The review involved the Treasury Department’s meeting with individuals, members of Congress, inter-agency partners, foreign governments, academics and a Treasury sanctions workforce to solicit for their views.
Through OFAC, the US Department of the Treasury is one of the key institutions, which the US uses to enforce sanctions. Other key players include the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State and the National Security Council. According to the report, the latter “lead(s) the formulation of the foreign policy and strategic goals that sanctions serve.”
Rationale for the review of the US sanctions framework
The report indicated that the review of the US sanctions framework was driven by the need to assess the challenges affecting the measures’ efficacy and offer “several steps to modernise sanctions to address current policy priorities and keep the tool sufficiently nimble to address future threats.”
The report further indicated that “the objective of this review was to ensure that economic and financial sanctions remain an effective tool of US national security and foreign policy now and in future.”
The other reasons why the Department of Treasury reviewed US sanctions included that fact that over the past 20 years that country’s use of sanctions had increased by 933 percent.
The report further noted that the composition of the US sanction programmes increased from 69 sanctions authorities covering countries such as Cuba, Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia and Iran in 2000, to 176 authorities in 2021 with new countries such as Venezuela, Russia, Syria and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The report also highlighted that over the past 20 years, the sources of US sanctions authority had been relatively constant with Executive Orders constituting an average of 63 percent of the country’s sanctions authority, while statutes accounted for the remainder from 2000 to 2021.
Alleged success stories
According to the report, some of the US sanctions “success stories” recorded during the period under review included the following:-
Preventing Iraq from using the international financial system and commercial markets to generate revenue through oil sales and other activities that allegedly supported its nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation and support for terrorist activities, forcing the country to the negotiating table in 2015;
Freezing and seizing billions of dollars’ worth of assets from front companies used by the Cali (drugs) Cartel of southern Colombia culminating in the dismantling of the cartel and the arrest of its leaders in 2014;
Protecting “tens of billions of dollars” in Libyan assets from misappropriation by former government officials during the ongoing war following the fall of Muammar GADDAFI in 2011; and
Designating over 1 600 terrorists entities and individuals since 9/11, which affected some terrorist organisations such as the Hizbollah of Lebanon, whose financial streams were affected resulting in it reducing the salaries of its military arm members in 2019 and publicly soliciting for donations.
Meanwhile, the report cited the following challenges affecting the efficacy of US sanctions programmes, which necessitated the assessment.
Emerging challenges such as cyber criminals;
Strategic economic competitors;
Growing financial complexity;
Competing demands from policy makers, market participants and others;
The evolution of the global financial architecture;
Reduction in the use of the US Dollar by “American adversaries”; and
Technological innovations such as the emergence of digital currencies.
Steps to modernise sanctions
In view of the challenges affecting the effectiveness of US sanctions, US Treasury Department suggested the following to modernise and improve their efficacy:-
Adopting a structured policy framework that links sanctions to a clear policy objective.
This would see the Department using right tools for right circumstances, anticipating the economic and political implications on US economy, allies and third parties, as well as ensuring that future sanctions would be easy to understand, enforceable and, where possible, reversible. This is likely to see the US Embassy in Zimbabwe issuing more communications using the social media, skits and other popular platforms to amplify its campaign that the US sanctions in Zimbabwe are targeted at specific individuals and not ordinary people.
Incorporating multilateral co-ordination where possible.
This is expected to see the US incorporating allies and partners “who can magnify economic and political impact” of sanctions to “enhance the credibility of US international leadership.”
This step also anticipates multilateral efforts that would include advocating for United Nations (UN) sanctions and ensuring global applicability of the restrictive measures. Going forward, the world should expect the US to use its dominance of the funding of the UN to push its own hegemonic designs against targeted nations.
Calibrating sanctions to mitigate unintended economic, political and humanitarian impact.
This step would see the US sanctions being tailored to mitigate unintended economic and political impact on US workers and businesses, allies, non-targeted populations globally. According to the report, this is meant to protect the US’ allies and key constituencies with the ultimate aim of preserving support for the sanctions policy, “while continuing to deny support to malicious actors.” In Zimbabwe this would see the US Embassy echoing the “corruption, not sanctions” narrative.
Ensuring that sanctions are easily understood, enforceable and adoptable.
This step is set to see the Treasury Department engaging with its sanctions stakeholders, such as industry, financial institutions, civil society and the media among others using enhanced communication especially on digital platforms. This would see the Department’s messaging being more target stakeholder-specific than before; and
Investing in modernising Treasury’s sanction technology, workforce and infrastructure.
This step is expected to see the Department investing in the right expertise, technology and staff to support the sanctions policy making and implementation. Under this step, the Treasury Department is also expected to invest more in deepening its institutional knowledge and capabilities in the evolving digital assets and services space to support the full sanctions life cycle of activities.
As the country approaches the 2023 harmonised elections, Zimbabweans should expect the US to ratchet up a series of measures in line with that country’s new sanctions thrust. This includes appearing to minimise the effect of sanctions against ordinary people, roping in some neighbouring countries and issuing more communications justifying the measures.
The opposition and some anti-Government personalities such as “the friend of the
Congress,” and MDC Alliance faction co-vice president, Tendai Biti, are set to get more prominent roles in its campaign to justify the sanctions to ordinary Zimbabweans. CSOs are also expected to be richly rewarded through the likes of USAID to reach out to various communities with the US lie that their socio-economic challenges are being caused by corruption and not the debilitating impact of the illegal sanctions.
Meanwhile, the nefarious US machinations notwithstanding, the Government stands ready to continue to improve the socio-economic conditions of the people. Pursuant to Vision 2030, the New Dispensation remains people-oriented and will score key economic successes using local resources.