Sanctions are viewed as representing the middle ground in international politics. Considered more severe than verbal condemnation, they are less severe than the use of force.
According to Article 41 of the United Nations Charter, authority to impose sanctions lies exclusively with the Security Council.
Regional organisations are authorised under Article 52 to “achieve pacific settlement of local disputes” without express permission of the Security Council, “provided that…their activities are consistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations”.
In practice, sanctions have comprised a wide range of actions, from economic embargoes to restrictions on participation in the Olympic games.
Here is a brief classification of sanctions: economic, travel, military, diplomatic and cultural. Trade sanctions restrict imports and exports to and from the target country.
Comprehensive trade sanctions are the target of the current criticism of sanctions regimes, because of the humanitarian crises that have erupted in countries against which such sanctions have been imposed.
Financial sanctions address monetary issues. They can include blocking governmental assets held abroad, limiting access to financial markets and restricting loans and credits, restricting international transfer payments and restricting the sale and trade of property abroad. Governments will be unable to pay for imports, and trade will suffer.
Travel sanctions can include both sanctions against the travel of certain individuals or groups and sanctions against certain kinds of air transport. Bans on certain types of air travel include the current ban on taking off or landing of any aircraft owned, leased or operated by or on behalf of the Taliban, established by the Security Council in its resolution 1267 (1999).
Military sanctions may include arms embargoes or the termination of military assistance or training. This may also include refusal to sell military equipment to a country.
Diplomatic sanctions directly target the rulers of a sanctioned State. Other steps towards diplomatic isolation include the withdrawal of diplomatic personnel and international organizations from the target country.
Finally, cultural sanctions, while having less of a negative impact than other forms of sanctions, can still have undesired results.
Having highlighted the different categories of sanctions, I will now turn to challenge the notion of sanctions as applied by the US Empire.
First, there are many instances in our contemporary history when sanctions have been applied unilaterally as a tool for regime change by the US Empire and the Zionist entity.
There are many examples to draw from. From Iraq, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Iran to North Korea and now to the drama that is currently unfolding in Venezuela.
Second, according to international law sanctions are a prerogative of the collective called the UN Security Council. An individual country cannot go about imposing sanctions for its own selfish ends.
Let us take the case of Zimbabwe. The negotiations that led to a settlement of the protracted Rhodesian war that pitted the freedom fighters from ZANU-PF (ZANLA) and PF-ZAPU (ZIPRA), that later united and merged into ZANU-PF, was a bilateral dispute between Zimbabwe and Britain.
When an independent Zimbabwe sought to address this historical imbalance, which was skewed in favour of 4000 white commercial farmers who owned about 70% of arable farmland, the US Empire joined in support of the British stance and unilaterally imposed sanctions on the Southern African country.
The economic sanctions that have been imposed on Zimbabwe amount to “terrorism”. They were designed to foment an uprising like the kind that is currently unfolding in Venezuela that have seen the country’s economy crumbling and has inflicted much suffering on ordinary people.
What the US Empire had in mind was clearly regime change. It tried to prop up the MDC party and many civic organisations by funding them to the tune of billions of dollars, but it failed.
The liberation party, ZANU-PF prevailed, thanks to the resilience of the people of Zimbabwe. Just last week, President Trump again renewed these terrible sanctions even though the country held an election that was considered fair and credible by many international observers.
The US Empire and its Zionist allies are reenacting the same scenario in Venezuela as happened in Zimbabwe. Washington’s imposition of sanctions on Venezuela is not new.
When Hugo Chavez rose to power in Venezuela, he chose a path of total political and economic independence for his country, a development that did not go down well with the US Empire.
The Empire and its Zionist allies have their eyes on the vast oil resources of Venezuela and have been seeking to control for their own benefit.
What many people do not know is that when Trump came to power he imposed sanctions on Venezuela as a prelude to regime change. It is important to note that these sanctions are not UN sanctions, but are unilateral in nature, thus illegal.
Surely, the people of Venezuela will resist this latest plot by the US Empire. The economic terrorism imposed by the Washington warlords will be defeated.
Lastly, in light of the above, one must challenge the notion and definition of democracy as is being peddled.
Instead of “goverment of the people, by the people, for the people”, it should be “government for the people, by the elite, for the elite”.
Africa must wake up!
Dr Mustafa Bothwell Mheta has a PhD in Semitic Languages and Cultures from the University of Johannesburg, Department of Religion Studies. He is also a Researcher at the Media Review Network.