Steven Mnuchin John Bolton
© Reuters / Jim Young
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and security adviser John Bolton announce sanctions on Venezuela in Washington
From Venezuela to Iran, Liberia to Belarus, there's barely a corner of the world not sanctioned by the US. But economic penalties don't help regime change and unfairly impact civilians, the UN sanctions rapporteur told RT.

When direct military action is out of the question, economic sanctions are often the US' next weapon of choice. President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal last year was accompanied by the reimposition of crippling sanctions, designed to force Iran to "act like a normal country," in the words of State Secretary Mike Pompeo. Ditto in Venezuela, where US sanctions targeted President Nicolas Maduro's oil wealth, and in North Korea, where sanctions have been applied, removed and reapplied in an effort to curb Kim Jong-un's nuclear ambitions.


All in all, at least 25 percent of the world's population lives under unilateral US sanctions, their livelihoods impacted by geopolitical decisions made half a world away.

"Those sanctions are considered to be illegitimate according to international law. Those sanctions are not the result of a decision of the [UN] Security Council," UN Special Rapporteur on the Negative Impact of Coercive Measures Idriss Jazairy told RT.

The US' sanctions on Iran, Jazairy continued, are "the most constraining ones in the world." The Islamic Republic's aviation, banking, energy, shipping and military sectors are all affected, while third parties are forbidden from doing business with Tehran. While Trump pulled out of the Iran deal on the grounds that Tehran was violating its conditions, the US' intelligence agencies "do not believe" that Iran was then or is now pursuing a nuclear weapon, according to their yearly report.

"That means that the people of Iran are going to be submitted to a terrible pressure, and enormous sufferings. I don't think this is fair. It's okay if you have a disagreement with a political leadership to try and sort it out or negotiate a solution, but to make the people pay is not fair."

Squeezing a nation's people to achieve a political goal is a risky move too. When the US extended its embargo on Cuba to almost all of the country's exports in 1962, its intention was to destabilize the Castro regime and force its collapse. Over four decades later, Cuba's socialist government is still in power. Cubans rallied around the flag, and resisted el bloqueo, as the economic blockade is called there.

"If you want to change a political system in a country, the last thing you should do is to apply sanctions. You'll consolidate the system you're trying to change!"

The current situation in Venezuela is a similar one. The country's destitute economy has been further hit by US sanctions, the latest round targeting the socialist country's development bank after Maduro's government arrested an aide to Juan Guaido, opposition leader and self-declared 'interim president.'

Washington's punitive pressure campaign on Caracas has been decried by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, who warned they "may contribute to aggravating the economic crisis" and have "repercussions on people's basic rights and wellbeing."

Now that the European Union has joined in the sanctions effort on Venezuela, Jazairy is doubly concerned, calling on all the capitals to "carry out a human impact assessment review" first.

"By applying sanctions which will deprive people of food, medication, humanitarian supplies, we are in fact exacerbating the human rights impact that we criticize of the country targeted."