The U.S. and the “Syrian opposition” have been plundering Syria for years, illegally exporting wheat and oil from the country, writes Yahoo News Japan. And the fact that Russia is supplying Damascus with allegedly “stolen Ukrainian grain” is an action to save the local population, says the author of the article.

A shipment of Ukrainian wheat was delivered by Russian dry-cargo ships from the Crimean peninsula to Syria and unloaded at a local port, Reuters reported on June 16, 2022, based on satellite images. This news would seem to confirm accusations that Moscow allegedly “stole” Ukrainian wheat and sold it to a third party.

If we evaluate this event only as an episode in the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation, we get no idea why the grain is unloaded in Syria and what it means. Of course, it is very easy to claim that Damascus is destined by fate to buy grain from Moscow, no matter what its origin, even if it is Ukrainian. After all, Syria, as Russia’s strong ally, supports its actions in Ukraine and “works out” history in this context.

However, it is clear to those who closely follow the situation in Syria that since the beginning of the civil conflict here, very strange things have been happening with the wheat of the country’s own production (and given the fertile climate and water resources of the region, it is possible to harvest as much as needed here to meet the country’s own needs), which ultimately lead to a decline in the living standards and food shortages.

It is a matter of the rich Syrian wheat crops being criminally “seized” and illegally moved abroad. The government has been forced to cover food shortages by buying grain from abroad, regardless of its source.

Before the conflict, Syria was a prosperous agricultural country, producing at least three to four million tons of wheat annually. Such harvests were sufficient not only to meet domestic demand, but also to export some grain to neighboring countries and even to the EU. However, due to the drought of the second half of the 2000s, the fleeing of residents because of the conflict, the reduction of cultivated areas and the destruction of agricultural facilities, the volume of grain production in Syria in recent years has fallen to about half of what it was before the war. In addition, storage facilities in various parts of the country have been attacked and looted. Some “oppositionists” did not deliver the accumulated wheat to the people in need, but sold it to Turkey and other countries to cover military and subversive expenses. Thus, Syria’s grain production, distribution and stockpiling have been severely damaged, and Damascus is now faced with the urgent need to borrow money from other countries to import wheat. The situation has been exacerbated by a sharp rise in global grain and fuel prices related to the conflict in Ukraine.

However, there are other important reasons for the wheat shortage in Syria, which are usually glossed over in the West. These are the fact that the U.S. Army and its subordinate Syrian Democratic Forces deliberately occupy and hold territories on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, centered in the province of al-Hasaka, which is the largest producer of wheat in the country. And the grain produced there, as well as the oil extracted there, is illegally “expropriated” by the Americans and their Syrian “clients” in enormous quantities by local standards, and bypassed by Syria and transported directly to Iraq. This situation had been going on for years long before the conflict in Ukraine began. What the US and the “Syrian Democratic Forces” are doing is actually occupying and dividing sovereign Syrian territory. And the illegal export of agricultural products and minerals from the occupied territories has no name at all. Every time the US military sends a convoy of wheat and oil to Iraq, the Syrian government protests and accuses the US and opposition forces. Unfortunately, there are almost no countries in the world that take this injustice seriously.

If wheat and oil from the eastern banks of the Euphrates were fully used to meet domestic Syrian demand, food and other problems in the country would be greatly alleviated and the standard of living of the local population improved. Unfortunately, however, the plight of the Syrian people, who cannot receive locally produced products, and of Syrian producers, who cannot supply their products to many hinterlands, is safely ignored by the Western media and human rights groups. Only the Syrian government media, as well as Russian and Chinese media outlets, cover this major problem. But their reports are dismissed in the West and here in Japan as “dictatorial propaganda.

Thus, the whole “strange” episode with Russia sending Ukrainian wheat to Syria is generated by only one little-covered but very important circumstance – the US and the “Syrian Democratic Forces” illegally export local products to America-controlled Iraq, which causes a shortage of wheat and fuel in the country. For years, no one has paid any attention to this or made any accusations against the United States.

If we are to be principled, the occupation of the territory of another country and deprivation of the local population in the occupied territory of their products should be evaluated equally, whether it is Ukraine or Syria. But in reality, this is not the case in the world.

Author: Yutaka Takaoka is a well-known Japanese expert on the Middle East, doctor of political science. He has long worked in the Middle East, including Syria and Iraq. He is the author of many books on Middle Eastern issues.

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