TEHRAN – The Iraqi foreign ministry in a statement underlined the importance of bilateral relations with Iran for the country, and announced that Baghdad will not impose the US-sponsored sanctions against Tehran.
Iraq opposed Washington’s request to comply with the US-led sanctions imposed against Iran over its nuclear energy program.
“Our relations with Iran are more important than all other issues or benefits,” the Iraqi Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Referring to the meetings held between the Iraqi government and US Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen, the statement said that the two sides had not reached any agreements on enforcing sanctions against Iran.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry added that Baghdad has requested an exemption from the US-led sanctions imposed against Iran.
“Our economic relations with Iran will continue and are not in conflict with international resolutions,” an Iraqi official said. … Full article
- The collective punishment of anti-Iran sanctions (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Pakistan risks sanctions over Iran gas deal: WSJ (dawn.com)
- Netanyahu urges ‘military sanctions’ threat against Iran (dailystar.com.lb)
- The Coming Collapse of Iran Sanctions (theuglytruth.wordpress.com)
A front-page article in the print edition of today’s Washington Post details how New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez twice approached federal health-care officials about Dr. Solomon Melgen’s outstanding $8.9 million debt to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, which the doctor claims was the result of being over billed. Melgen, personally and through his ophthalmology company, has made major contributions to Menendez’s political campaigns.
This is the latest news to follow reports that on Wednesday, January 30, the FBI raided Melgen’s offices, soon after which the senator’s office described the doctor as “a friend and political supporter of Senator Menendez for many years.” Two days later, following John Kerry’s resignation from his seat as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to become Secretary of State, Menendez took over the position, one of the most powerful and prestigious in Congress.
Menendez, who is Cuban American, has taken a hard line against easing travel restrictions to Cuba and has been described as “fiercely pro-embargo.” The New Jersey Democrat has also worked closely with lawmakers across the aisle on policy towards Iran, including his co-authorship of sanctions legislation with Republican Senator Mark Kirk last year.
Early reports of the FBI’s search focused on allegations that in 2010 Senator Menendez accepted free flights to the Dominican Republic from Dr. Solomon Melgen and had sex with prostitutes during these trips, a claim he has vehemently denied. It was also noted that Menendez is not married, and that prostitution is legal in the Caribbean nation. The Senate Ethics Committee is investigating the senator, who in January of this year wrote a $58,000 personal check to reimburse Melgen for two trips.
But the FBI’s raid appeared to be linked to two parallel investigations of Melgen, one regarding Medicare fraud, the other political corruption. Both investigations may involve the doctor’s relationship with Senator Menendez.
The Associated Press noted that Dr. Melgen, a registered Democrat, has made political contributions to the tune of $193,350 since 1998, $14,200 of which has gone to Menendez. More significantly, the New York Times also reported that Melgen’s medical practice gave $700,000 to a super-PAC that spent more than $528,000 in support of Menendez’s re-election campaign in 2012.
This support has recently been scrutinized in light of a July 2012 Senate hearing, in which Menendez reportedly questioned two officials about why the Obama administration had not been more aggressive in promoting U.S. business interests abroad. During this questioning, the senator specifically highlighted a contract between the Dominican government and a company that would provide x-ray equipment for the country’s ports, namely for the purpose of detecting narcotics trafficking. The contract has been held up due to its enormous cost, which is estimated to be as much as $1 billion over 20 years. In the Senate hearings, Menendez did not refer to the company, ICSSI, by name. He also did not mention that Melgen has an ownership interest in the company.
Furthermore, the New York Times reports that Pedro Pablo Permuy, a long-time former aide to Menendez, was slated to be a top executive at ICSSI. Permuy was a senior legislative aide to the senator from 1993 to 1995 and his national security advisor from 2001 to 2003. Permuy denied being either a board member or an employee of the firm. But Dr. Melgen’s cousin, a lawyer based in Santo Domingo who on Monday publicly defended the doctor and senator and called for the contract’s enforcement, said that Mr. Permuy “will run the operations.” According to a spokesperson for Menendez, the senator knew nothing of his long-time former aide’s involvement with the company.
Over the weekend Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose former aides founded the super-PAC that contributed heavily to Menendez’s most recent re-election campaign, expressed his “utmost confidence” in the New Jersey senator and said he has no problem with his colleague’s continued chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee. And Menendez’s aides have said he regularly advocates for U.S. business abroad, and that doing so is appropriate for members of that committee.
In March 2010, New York Democratic Representative Charles Rangel stepped down as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee after being admonished by the House Ethics Committee and losing the support of his party. Given the news from today’s Washington Post and the ongoing Senate Ethics Committee and FBI investigations, it remains to be seen whether leaders of either party will call for Menendez to step down as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
- Timeline of Melgen-Menendez Involvement in Dominican Port Deal (breitbart.com)
There is a high probability that US sanctions against Iran have been violated by its own army. Part of the $1.55 billion in fuel the US bought from Turkmenistan for the Afghan army in the last five years may have originated in Iran.
A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) suggested that “despite actions taken by DOD to prevent the purchase of Iranian fuel with US funds, risks remain that US economic sanctions could [have been] violated” from 2007 to 2012.
Most of the fuel for domestic Afghan consumption comes from neighboring Iran. Because of the US sanctions on Tehran restricting the trade of Iranian oil and petroleum products, the ISAF has been required to abide by the regulations and buy petrol from eight Afghan-owned companies that deliver petroleum from Turkmenistan, which borders both Iran and Afghanistan.
The SIGAR report also acknowledged there are no plausible oversight mechanisms to make sure Iranian petroleum products are not included in future fuel purchases.
Turkmenistan is a major regional oil producer, which also trades for petroleum products made in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia and Iran. Petrol vendors in Turkmenistan use flexible supply schemes, meaning that fuel of various origins could potentially be blended together.
In response to a draft of SIGAR report, the US Embassy in Kabul stated that “it is possible that if blending is taking place in Turkmenistan it could contain some Iranian fuel,” but refused to admit that fuel imported from Russia could also be blended with Iranian fuel prior to its import into Afghanistan.
“All fuel imports carry a ‘verified Fuel Passport’ from the refinery, which provides information on the origin, quantity, quality, and specifications of the fuel,” the embassy explained.
“Suppliers are unlikely to blend Iranian fuel, or any other product, with other sourced fuel because of the potential that blending could cause product deviation from specification standards and potentially cause a rejection of the entire shipment,” the embassy said.
In 2012, the Pentagon reportedly spent over $800 million on imports from Turkmenistan, most likely for fuel purchases.
Iran has quickly found ways to circumvent the EU sanctions imposed on its oil trade in July. After dipping sharply in summer of 2012, Iranian crude oil exports rose again by the end of the year.
So far, Iran’s December crude oil sales were the highest recorded since the sanctions were first imposed. Iran exported 1.4 million barrels per day (bpd) in December, compared to less than 900,000 bpd in September. Pre-sanctions oil exports stood at 2.2 million bpd in late 2011.
EU sanctions, introduced in January 2012 and put into effect in July, aimed to curb Iran’s ambitious nuclear program, which Tehran has insisted is only for peaceful purposes. The Iranian economy is heavily dependent on oil sales – the cuts in production lead to billions of dollars in lost revenue and a plunge in the value of the national currency.
Analysts believe that sales to Asia and the expansion of Iran’s tanker fleet helped the Islamic Republic circumvent the sanctions. In countries like China, India and Japan, Iranian oil constitutes more than 10 percent of the total crude supply – and demand from Asia is only growing.
“China is saying let’s up the numbers because no-one is doing anything about it and it looks like Obama has made a political decision not to go to war with Iran,” a senior source at a large independent trading house told Reuters.
Iran is also improving its delivery channels, despite the numerous bans and restrictions imposed by the international community.
“Iran bought a number of tankers from China and can now do more deliveries. It’s taken some pressure off Iran and facilitated tanker traffic and we are seeing higher exports to China,” analyst Salar Moradi at oil and gas consulting firm FGE told Reuters.
Meanwhile, a fresh round of US sanctions looms for Iran. Starting on February 6, US law will prevent the Islamic republic from repatriating earnings from its oil export trade. The ban is in addition to the already-existing restrictions, including the country’s removal from the SWIFT global financial service and an indefinite international asset freeze.
The new sanctions are expected to reduce export volumes to around 1 million barrels per day, the International Energy Agency predicted. However, analysts believe that further sanctions will not stop Iran from selling oil or pursuing its nuclear goals.
“What we have seen is that when Iran is pushed to a do or die situation, they have looked for creative solutions to get around sanctions,” oil and gas analyst Elena McGovern of Business Monitor International told Reuters. “The system will always find a way to cope.”
The international community has been failing to engage in constructive dialogue with Iran on its nuclear program. The so-called ‘sixtet’ of ‘5+1’ states – Britain, China, France, Russia, the US and Germany – met three times last year with little to no results. The next round of talks has been stalled until a venue for the meeting is agreed upon.
“Some of our partners in the six powers and the Iranian side cannot come to an agreement about where to meet, behaving like little children,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. He stressed that Russian mediators “are willing to meet at any location.”
While the West has demanded that Iran abandon its nuclear aspirations, Iran refuses to back down: Tehran has seized every opportunity to advance its nuclear capabilities. On Thursday, Iranian officials informed the UN nuclear agency of its plan to use more modern centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant.
- China defying sanctions imposed on Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- US probes Swiss medicine giant for trade with Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The recently released data shows Iran’s crude oil exports to China soared to the second highest level in December 2012, despite US-led sanctions against the Islamic Republic’s energy sector.
According to a Reuters report China imported nearly 593,390 barrels per day (bpd) of crude from Iran in December last year, up 3.6 per cent from the preceding year and up 39 per cent from November. For the full year 2012, the highest level of China’s crude imports from Iran stood at 633,000 bpd.
Industry officials in China attributed the enhancement in Iran’s crude oil exports to improvement in shipment. The problems that used to cause delays have been overcome recently. The period of delay has become shorter and overall, less frequent.
Iran is currently China’s third largest supplier of crude, providing Beijing with roughly 12 percent of its total annual oil consumption.
At the beginning of 2012, the United States and the European Union had imposed new sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.
On October 15, 2012, the EU foreign ministers reached an agreement on another round of sanctions against Iran.
Iran terms these impositions illegal and insists that US-engineered sanctions were imposed based on the unfounded accusation that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.
According to another news report China will soon start importing polyethylene made in Iran, which became possible after the Islamic Republic partially lifted a ban on the export of petrochemicals late last year.
Lately, China-based market sources said that an estimated 100,000-150,000 metric tons of high density polyethylene (HDPE) and low density polyethylene (LDPE) from Iran is expected to arrive in China within a month aboard five vessels. The sources added that the Iranian tanker Touska will shortly discharge HDPE and LDPE at Shanghai port.
On November 6, 2012, Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Abdolhossein Bayat announced that the Oil Ministry had lifted the ban on the export of seven petrochemicals; benzene, styrene monomer, caustic soda, linear alkyl benzene (LAB), melamine crystal, premature ventricular contraction (PVC), and polyethylene.
- US probes Swiss medicine giant for trade with Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel may rely on US ‘scalpels’ to contain Iran – defense minister (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- US exempts 9 countries from sanctions on Iranian oil industry (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Despite its claims of easing the restrictions on the sales of medicine to Iran, Washington has launched an investigation into the transactions of Switzerland’s biggest pharmaceutical company, Novartis, with the Islamic Republic.
In its 2012 annual report, Novartis said its Alcon eye-care unit is being investigated by the United States for exporting medicine to Iran, Wall Street Journal reported.
Alcon received a subpoena in 2012 from the US attorney’s office for the Northern District of Texas, seeking documents related to its exports to Iran that date back to 2005, years before the current sanctions were enacted.
This is while the US Treasury Department said in October 2012 that American companies are allowed to sell certain medicines and basic medical supplies to Iran without first seeking a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
The move was made amid Iran’s protests that the US-engineered sanctions were hurting ordinary Iranian citizens and over fears that the humanitarian effects of the unilateral sanctions could undermine support for the bans among Washington’s allies.
According to US rules, exporters of medicine and medical supplies to Iran are required to apply for special licenses. Besides, as the aftermath of the sanctions, the impossibility of transferring money through banks has cast its cumbersome shadow upon medicine and healthcare in Iran and has gravely affected the import of medicines to Iran.
On January 26, in a second letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, President of Academy of Medical Sciences Dr. Seyed Alireza Marandi criticized him for his silence and indifference to the threats directed at the health of Iranian people and urged him to show real action.
“As the individual responsible for surveying and monitoring national health related issues, I affirm that this problem is real and the current situation was predictable from the start of the brutal sanctions,” Marandi said in his letter.
At the beginning of 2012, the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. The sanctions entered into force in early summer 2012.
On October 15, the EU foreign ministers reached an agreement on another round of sanctions against Iran.
The illegal US-engineered sanctions were imposed based on the accusation that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.
Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
- US: We are not sanctioning medicial supplies to Iran (therealamirtaheri.com)
- U.S. sanctions cause shortage of drugs in Iran (thehindu.com)
- US exempts 9 countries from sanctions on Iranian oil industry (alethonews.wordpress.com)
It’s not all about Iran’s civilian nuclear program. Since Iranians removed from power the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who carried the accolade of the closest ally of the White House in the Persian Gulf region, the first flames of hostility between Tehran and Washington were fanned.
It’s been more than three decades that Iran and the United States have failed to sit at a negotiation table and settle their disputes and come to a comprehensive agreement over forgetting grievances and starting a new era of reconciliation, mutual understanding and rapprochement. The Iranians every year storm into the streets to chant “Death to America,” and the United States every year intensifies the anti-Iranian sanctions, funds terrorist groups to assassinate Iranian politicians and scientists and ratifies plans to advance “pro-democracy” movements in Iran. We are not here to give a value judgment on which party is doing the right thing, but one thing is for sure, which is that the Iranian people are the only victims of this inexplicable hostility and animosity between Tehran and Washington.
It’s almost 33 years that Iran has been under the hard-hitting sanctions imposed by consecutive U.S. administrations which are renewed and built up every single year. The first set of economic sanctions against Iran were approved by President Jimmy Carter who issued the Executive Order 12170 on November 14, 1979, 10 days after a group of Iranian students captured the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in protest at the U.S. support for the deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and took a total of 52 Americans working at the embassy as hostage: “I, Jimmy Carter, President of the United States, find that the situation in Iran constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States and hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.”
“I hereby order blocked all property and interests in property of the Government of Iran, its instrumentalities and controlled entities and the Central Bank of Iran which are or become subject to the jurisdiction of the United States or which are in or come within the possession or control of persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States,” President Carter ordered.
The sanctions were not lifted after Iran released all the hostages on January 20, 1981, and following the invasion of Iran by Iraq which was spearheaded and supported by the United States and its European allies, the United States astonishingly tightened the grip of sanctions on Iran, exacerbating the life of innocent civilians at a critical time when Saddam Hussein, armed to the teeth, was pounding and bombing Iranian cities on a daily basis. In 1984, a new set of sanctions were adopted which prohibited the sales of arms and provision of military or financial assistance to Iran during the war with Iraq, and on October 29, 1987, President Ronald Reagan issued the Executive Order 12613 by which all kinds of financial transactions with Iran were declared illegal and forbidden.
The tensions between the two arch-foes continued until a time when a remarkable event transformed the political atmosphere of Iran. When Iranians elected Seyed Mohammad Khatami in 1997 as the president, everybody expected that Washington may alter its attitude toward Iran, because President Khatami was a pro-reform figure whose foreign policy was based on détente and reconciliation with the West and the United States. However, Bill Clinton didn’t ease the sanctions and hostilities continued, even though President Khatami used every opportunity to reach out to the United States despite the pressure he was facing from the conservatives in Iran who didn’t favor dialogue with the U.S.
With George W. Bush’s coming to power in 2001, Iran’s nuclear program became a central theme in the U.S. foreign policy, and Iran was branded as a part of the so-called Axis of Evil. The sanctions were toughened and an international campaign for isolating Iran gradually began to take shape under the leadership of the Bush administration. Bush penalized many of his fellow citizens for doing business with Iran, and blocked the properties of hundreds of Iranian companies and individuals. He threatened Iran with the use of force and warned it repeatedly against a possible military strike on its nuclear facilities and even a regime change in Tehran, which he was not ashamed of openly bragging about. In 2007, ABC news reported that President Bush had authorized a $400 million bill for covert operations to create unrest in Iran. It was during his tenure that the Congress passed a law and allocated $120 million for anti-Iranian media propaganda. Oddly enough, the sanctions even encompassed scientific cooperation between the Iranian academicians and American universities and scientific institutions. For instance, in 2002 the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) deprived its Iranian members of different advantages and benefits, including the use of IEEE logo for promotional activities, electronic access to publications and access to job listings. In 2004, the U.S. Department of the Treasury ruled that editing or publishing scientific manuscripts from Iran violates the trade embargo on the country and thus several U.S. scientific publications started to refuse articles and research papers by Iranian academicians.
The legacy of confrontation with Iran as a “rogue state” was inherited by President Obama who came to the Oval Office with a shining motto of “change.” Many Iranians had expected that he would practically realize the changes he had promised, and especially revise the course of Bush’s adventurous foreign policy. But after a while, it transpired that he is not that much different from his predecessor as he renewed the U.S. economic sanctions against Iran only one year after he came to office.
“The actions and policies of the government of Iran are contrary to the interests of the United States in the region and pose a continuing and unusual and extraordinary threat,” said Obama in a message to the U.S. Congress after renewing the annual sanctions against Iran in March 2009. In 2012 and with the escalation of conflicts with Iran over its nuclear program, the United States hardened the sanctions and somewhat forced Iran’s major trade partners in the European Union, Asia and Africa to stop doing business with and buying oil from Iran. As a result of the U.S. pressures, the EU imposed an oil embargo against Iran and stopped buying its crude since July 1, 2012. Subsequently, Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Switzerland also adopted unilateral sanctions against Iran and the oil-rich country was literally targeted with all-out economic warfare launched by the United States and its allies. As a result of these backbreaking sanctions, Iran’s currency, rial, dropped to its lowest value against dollar in the late 2012 and according to economists, lost almost 70% of its value. The country also began to experience a staggering hyperinflation with the price of consumer goods increasing twofold and threefold every single day.
Now, aside from the oil embargo, a variety foodstuff, agricultural corps, medicines and medical equipment, computer devices, gold, clothes and humanitarian goods are considered banned goods for Iran and this is what makes daily life more difficult every day. To add insult to the injury, consider the number of civilians killed every year in Iran in deadly air crashes, a direct result of the U.S. embargo that makes it impossible for Iran to buy new and modern aircraft and refresh its aging, outdated fleet.
But is Iran capable of maintaining its economy in the face of these overwhelming sanctions? What will happen to the lives of the Iranian people? Won’t these sanctions decimate the chances of a possible reconciliation between Iran and the United States? Aren’t these sanctions some kind of violation of human rights? In order to find compelling answers for these questions, I contacted some renowned Iranian experts whom I knew had interesting things to say about the sanctions.
Richard Javad Heydarian, a foreign affairs analyst and Asia Times contributor says, “Although touted as ‘targeted’ measures against Iran’s nuclear and ballistic programs, the transatlantic sanctions, beginning in late-2011 and coming into full force on July 2012, are ruthlessly eroding the very foundations of Iran’s entire civilian economy, upon which almost 75 million Iranians depend for daily survival.”
“In the language of international law, we are arguably speaking of ‘collective punishment,’ because they directly hit Iran’s main exports, namely oil and gas, and shut out Iran’s major financial institutions, including the Iranian Central Bank from mainstream global financial channels, so it comes as no surprise that they are affecting Iranians of all walks of life, especially the poor and the majority lower-middle class population,” he added.
Analyzing the economic impacts of the sanctions, Heydarian notes, “Oil revenues are down by almost 50 percent, the fiscal deficit is widening to a decade-high, inflation has passed the 25% threshold, and the currency has lost almost 70% of its value… With a 40% merchandise-to-GDP ratio (the total value of merchandize trade in dollar terms), Iran is indeed vulnerable to the massive currency fluctuations. The IMF and IIF are estimating about 3 percent GDP contraction this year, so the sanctions are disruptive and hurting the whole country.”
According to Richard Javad Heydarian, the sanctions have deprived Iran of the opportunity to meet its most rudimentary needs: “due to the sanctions, Iran is finding it increasingly difficult to access international markets for purchase of even the most basic commodities, from food to clothing and medicine, as it struggles to process multi-billion oil deals in foreign currencies. It is already forced to engage in barter deals with countries such as India and China, which are crowding out Iran’s large domestic industrial base.”
This political analyst believes that Iran is losing its trade partners as a result of the sanctions: “Due to financial sanctions and growing American pressure, even regional trading partners such as the UAE and Oman have increasingly denied Iranian traders short-term loans, credit financing, and banking access, while more liquid traders are forced to rely on unscrupulous financial intermediaries and/or highly expensive payment schemes to conduct trade transactions.”
So, what will happen in the future? Where is the current standoff over Iran’s nuclear program headed? Are the sanctions going to remain in place and make daily life painful for Iranians? Heydarian responds:
“Not only has the West refused to show significant flexibility in three consecutive high-level talks, namely the Istanbul, Baghdad, and Moscow negotiations this [last] year, between Iran and the world powers, the so-called P5+1, but its incessant push on the sanctions regime is undercutting negotiations – given the dearth of an atmosphere of mutual-compromise and trust. In absence of West’s flexibility on the sanctions, I do not think that Iran will consider unilateral concessions.”
Abolghasem Bayyenat, an independent political analyst and a Ph.D. candidate at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University also believes that the sanctions are not “targeted” and “smart” as claimed by the West, and only serve to punish and penalize the ordinary citizens:
“It should be evident that the Western-imposed sanctions on Iran lack any sound moral and legal justifications and are contrary to international human rights standards as well as what has publicly been advertised by Western politicians themselves. The sanctions are not targeted and ‘smart’, as initially claimed by Western politicians, but are indiscriminate and ‘dumb’ in nature, in that they hurt the whole civilian population of Iran and impose collective punishment on them.”
“Funding nuclear activities constitute a tiny fraction of Iran’s public budget and, as such, trying to deprive a nation of its entire public revenues to only deny it funding sources for its IAEA-monitored nuclear program is not only absurd and illogical but is also hypocritical,” he added.
This political commentator believes that the sanctions will increase the government’s legitimacy and create solidarity among the people instead of pushing them to revolt. He also says that the sanctions undermine the spirit of cooperation and constructive dialogue between Iran and the world powers: “The current Western strategy to impose crippling economic sanctions on Iran is detrimental to the prospects of peacefully resolving Iran’s nuclear issue and is not likely to meet its stated goal of bringing drastic change in Iran’s nuclear position.”
“Economic hardships do not automatically and mechanically produce public revolt against the government in Iran. What is more important than the scope of objective economic hardships is how they are perceived by the general public in Iran. The general public in Iran tend to sympathize with the official narrative that economic hardships are the price that they need to pay for safeguarding their political independence,” he said. Bayyenat says that the impact of the West’s sanctions on Iran can be felt in two ways: “The first impact is effected through fueling rampant inflation in Iran. The sharp rise in the price of commodities and other consumer goods aggravated by the partly sanctions-induced currency depreciation has eroded the general welfare of ordinary Iranians and is likely to create further economic hardships for them, if not mitigated.” “Second, the Western-imposed sanctions on Iran gradually undermine the capacity of the government of Iran to provide public welfare programs and other social services to its people by cutting its revenues and hindering its capacity to engage in financial transactions with foreign countries to import necessary foodstuffs and medicine. The sick, the elderly, children and the working class in general suffer the most as a result of the Western-imposed sanctions on Iran,” he adds.
Dr. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, a Reader in Comparative Politics and International Relations and Chair of the Centre for Iranian Studies at SOAS, University of London opines that domestic mismanagement coupled with the economic sanctions of the United States and its European allies have made daily life in Iran increasingly breathtaking:
“The sanctions hit Iran’s embattled civil society which is caught between a largely incompetent state and a predatory international community that is taking every advantage out of the domestic situation in the country and the crisis of politics that ensued in the last couple of years.”
“The sanctions have made it harder for Iranian families to access drugs and medication including for cancer and blood disorders such as hemophilia. The negative impact on Iran’s aging civilian planes is well known. The sanctions have also made it gruelingly difficult to transfer money into and from Iran, and so many students studying abroad are short of funds from their family members. None of this really has a political dividend or bothers the Iranian state. It is Iranian society that is bearing the brunt of an intolerable situation,” Adib-Moghaddam noted.
This university professor admits that the sanctions are inhumane and unjustifiable, but he also argues that the government has played its own role in the emergence of the current crisis: “There is no doubt that these kinds of sanctions are a war by other means. The hypocrisy is obvious to anyone with a hint of political intelligence. But here as well, Iranians are targeted from two sides: the sanctions regime enforced by the United States and the systematic violation of human dignity by influential sections of the Iranian state. The inability of the current government of President Ahmadinejad to navigate the nation out of either crisis is testimony to its political failure.”
Canadian-Iranian freelance political analyst, Shahir Shahid Saless, whose writings have appeared in the Guardian, Al-Monitor and Asia Times traces the roots of current tensions between Iran and the United States in a historical mistrust that started when Iranians toppled the U.S.-backed Shah in a popular revolution in 1979:
“Iran and the U.S. are locked in a cold war relationship which, while not unprecedented, is almost unique for its pattern of non-communication (or inconsistent and failing communications) and non-compromise. This state of relations has lasted three decades. Even during the Cold War the U.S. not only would negotiate with its adversaries but also had diplomatic and economic relations with them. [The] U.S.-Iran relationship is an abnormality where the two governments simply cannot talk to each other in a meaningful way. Accumulation of decades of perceived betrayals, which has resulted in the formation of profound mutual mistrust, is largely responsible for the failure of the formation of a negotiation process between the two states.”
“It is a sound contention that when the Islamic Republic came to exist, seeds of mistrust between the two states had already been planted. The admitted role of the U.S. in the 1953 coup d’état and the overthrow of Mossadegh, Iran’s popular and democratically-elected Prime Minister, is central to and the beginning of the debate of mistrust between Iran and the U.S. The seizure of the American embassy in 1979 and the disclosure of espionage documents taken from the embassy escalated the Iranian regime’s mistrust of the U.S. in an already unsteady relationship. Since then the fear of regime change has acted as a barrier to the restoration of the relations. The hostage crisis created a cycle of mistrust that has not been addressed, let alone broken to this date,” he stressed.
Shahid Saless believes that Iran’s nuclear program further heightened the wall of mistrust and with the imposition of sanctions on Iran by the United States, the two countries are now literally entangled in a diplomatic stalemate:
“Sanctions, ostensibly, heightens mistrust. Interestingly, this is acknowledged by experts such as Ray Takeyh and Kenneth Pollack, who are consulted by the U.S. government and are advocates of draconian sanctions. You don’t need to be a genius to understand that extreme mistrust will continue to block the formation of negotiation process let alone a negotiated solution.”
There are few wise and decent people in the world who endorse the U.S. sanctions regime against Iran. First of all, there’s no convincing evidence that Iran’s nuclear program has a military dimension and so there’s no reason to punish Iran with such unbridled sanctions, and most importantly, these sanctions are paralyzing the daily life of the Iranian citizens who want to live a peaceful and untroubled life aside from the political differences and conflicts their government has had with the Western states.
The United States has regularly chastised Iran for its alleged violations of human rights, but it seems that it’s taking the lead in violating the most fundamental rights of the Iranian people, equally human beings, in an atrocious manner by imposing these stringent sanctions with their huge humanitarian impact.
Although some progress was made in last year’s dialogues between Iran and the six world powers over Tehran’s nuclear program, it seems that the only key to resolving the erosive conflict over Iran’s nuclear program is lasting bilateral talks between Iran and the United States; the two adversaries which can bring peace and stability to the Middle East by putting aside the acrimony and moving toward reconciliation which will be an all-out diplomatic breakthrough for the whole international community.
Kourosh Ziabari is an award-winning Iranian journalist, media correspondent and peace activist. He was born on April 27, 1990, in the northern Iranian city of Rasht.Articles and interviews by Kourosh Ziabari have been published in a variety of international newspapers, magazines, journals and news websites including Press TV, Tehran Times, Counter Punch, Fars News Agency, The Nation (Pakistan), Rebelion, Middle East Online, Intrepid Report, Dissident Voice, Mehr News Agency, Info Palestine, and many others. Visit his website www.kouroshziabari.com
- US renews war on Iranian media (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- US imposes fresh sanctions on Tehran, including ban on Iranian media (alethonews.wordpress.com)
PressTVGlobalNews | January 5, 2013
The United States has imposed fresh sanctions on Iranian media despite Washington’s claims of respecting free speech. Sanctions have all been applied under the umbrella of concern for Iran’s nuclear program becoming militarized. The CIA and IAEA have constantly reported that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons while mainstream American media have promoted that Iran has or is producing a nuclear bomb. Many observers though contend that the many sanctions on Iran are an act of war as part of Western colonialism and imperialism that also serves the Zionists of Israel.
To further discuss the issue, Press TV’s News Analysis has conducted an interview with Joe Iosbaker, Stop FBI Repression, from Chicago, Kevin Barrett, a founding member of the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance, from Wisconsin, and Daniel Pipes, founder and director of the Middle East Forum, from Philadelphia.
- US imposes fresh sanctions on Tehran, including ban on Iranian media (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Nine countries have been granted extended waivers of the illegal US sanctions on Iran due to their reductions of purchases of Iranian crude oil.
On Friday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added China, India, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Taiwan to the list of countries exempt from the sanctions for another six months, the Associated Press reported.
On September 14, the United States exempted Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and Japan from complying with the sanctions on Iran’s oil industry for another 180 days.
At the beginning of 2012, the US and the European Union imposed new sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors with the goal of preventing other countries from purchasing Iranian oil and conducting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran.
The illegal US-engineered sanctions were imposed based on the unfounded accusation that Iran is pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.
Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has the right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
In addition, the IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities but has never found any evidence showing that Iran’s civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.
The US Senate is set to consider new economic sanctions against Iran that would include the blacklisting and blocking the assets of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).
The new sanctions, among other economic features, would blacklist the IRIB and its president, block all the IRIB assets and prevent others from doing business with it.
The proposed sanction that would hit the IRIB is another attempt by the West to silence Iranian media. In a flagrant violation of the freedom of speech, two satellite providers Eutelsat SA and Intelsat SA stopped the broadcast of several Iranian satellite channels in October, citing pressure by the European Union.
Earlier this month, the Hong Kong-based Asia Satellite Telecommunications Co. Ltd. (AsiaSat) also took all Iranian channels off air in East Asia under pressure from the US.
The new sanctions to be considered by the US Senate could also target transactions for goods and services with Iran’s energy, oil, port, shipping and ship-building sectors. They would also target trade with Iran in graphite and precious metals.
The bans would also ban insurance or reinsurance providers from trading with Iran in energy, shipping and ship-building sectors, as well as with designated persons and entities.
Foreign banks that handle transactions for Iranian persons that have been designated by the United States could also be targeted by the proposed embargoes.
US lawmakers say the fresh move is part of measures aimed at pressuring Iran to halt its nuclear energy program.
The proposal could be put into vote by the Senate as early as Thursday. It would be included in the annual defense policy bill and must be approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives before it could become law.
US President Barack Obama will finally sign the sanctions into law after they are approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The United States, Israel and some of their allies have repeatedly accused Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.
Over the false allegation, Washington and the European Union have imposed illegal unilateral sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Iran refutes the allegations and argues that as a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is entitled to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
- U.S. Senate Approves New Sanctions On Iran (rferl.org)
- Senate Approves Amendment That Would Add More Iran Sanctions – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
Sri Lanka has closed down its only refinery, Sapugaskanda, as the sanctions imposed against Iran’s energy sector by the US have taken a toll on the South Asian country’s crude imports.
“Since August due to strict adherence to US sanctions, our letters of credit for imports have stopped being accepted,” Sri Lanka’s Petroleum Minister Susil Premjayantha said on Wednesday.
The Sapugaskanda refinery, which has a capacity of 50,000 barrels a day and is geared only to process Iranian crude, shut down its operations earlier this week due to not receiving oil supplies from Iran.
Premajayantha said this week that Sri Lanka’s cumulative loss from the US sanctions against importing Iranian crude was a staggering $1.2 billion.
At the beginning of 2012, the US and the EU approved new sanctions against Iran’s oil and financial sectors. The embargoes aim to prevent other countries from purchasing Iranian oil or transacting with the Central Bank of Iran.
The US and the EU have declared that the bans are meant to force Iran to abandon its nuclear energy program, which they claim includes a military component.
Iran has vehemently refuted the allegation, arguing that as a committed signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is entitled to use nuclear technology for peaceful objectives.
- No oil; Sapugaskanda runs dry! (oneislandtwonationsblogspotcom.typepad.com)
A couple of days ago, I wrote about an article in The National Interest magazine by a visiting fellow at a pro-Israel think tank that argued that the United Arab Emirates may be violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act by its funding of ostensibly environmental anti-drilling films. As might be expected, Susan Schmidt’s piece entitled “Lobbying through the Silver Screen” appears to be part of a broader campaign by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies to end America’s energy dependence on Israel’s recalcitrant neighbors.
On October 15, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) website published an op-ed piece by FDD senior fellow John Hannah tellingly entitled “How Oil Dependence Undermines America’s Effort to Stop the Iranian Bomb.” Citing the neocon-mentored Mitt Romney campaign promise of achieving “North American energy independence,” Hannah goes on to argue that dependence on Middle East oil not only endangers U.S. economic security but also serves as a constraint on its strategic freedom of movement in the region. “Concerns about oil prices,” claims Hannah, “have often badly distorted U.S. policy toward the Middle East.” As the title of his piece suggests, however, the “distortion” that most troubles the FDD is how this energy dependence makes Washington think twice before doing Israel’s bidding in the region:
The most acute example is the effort to pressure Iran to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions. U.S. policymakers have long known that the most effective step we could take against the mullahs is to cut off Iran’s oil sales and starve them of the enormous revenues they need to keep their repressive regime afloat. Yet for years, first President Bush and then President Obama fiercely resisted sanctioning the Islamic Republic’s petroleum sector. The reason? Because they quite legitimately feared that removing Iranian crude from the market would disrupt global supplies and trigger a devastating price shock. Only in late 2011, with Iran rapidly approaching the nuclear threshold, did Congress finally steamroll the administration by forcing through legislation that targeted Iranian oil.
Even then, implementation of the sanctions was watered down. The administration was given a six-month grace period to assess the possible impact that sanctions would have on the global oil market. And rather than demanding that customers of Iranian oil end their purchases entirely, countries were granted waivers from U.S. sanctions if they only “significantly reduced” their buy — which in practice required them to cut back between 15 and 20 percent. While the U.S. effort, together with complimentary EU sanctions, have no doubt had a major effect on Iran’s economy — reducing its oil exports by as much as 50 percent — a full embargo would have been far more impactful and the obvious course of action for Washington to pursue if not for the countervailing concern about oil markets. In the meantime, the Iranian regime continues to pocket perhaps $3 billion per month from the million or so barrels of oil that it still exports daily, all the while pressing ahead with its nuclear program.
America doesn’t have a higher national security priority than stopping the world’s most dangerous regime from going nuclear. And yet the sad reality is that our dependence on oil has for years, and to our great peril, systematically deterred us from fully deploying the most powerful tool in our arsenal — all-out sanctions on Iran’s petroleum sector — for resolving the crisis peacefully. Not surprisingly, that underlying logic applies in spades when it comes to any discussion about the possible use of force against Iran, where predictions of oil spiking to an economy-crippling $200 per barrel are commonplace.
The fact that our oil vulnerability has put such severe constraints on our freedom-of-maneuver to address the most pressing national security threat we face is deeply troubling.
Fortunately, there is a solution to the think tank’s concerns about U.S. “freedom” to address what it and other pro-Israel groups have worked so hard to convince Americans is their latest “most pressing national security threat.” As Hannah points out, “the United States is experiencing an oil and gas boom that promises to transform our energy landscape in very fundamental ways”:
Thanks to American ingenuity and technology, U.S. production is poised to increase dramatically over the next decade, after years of steep decline. As Governor Romney has correctly emphasized, through close cooperation with democratic allies in Canada and Mexico, the goal of energy self-sufficiency for North America may well be within reach — an unthinkable prospect just a few years ago, and one whose benefits in terms of job creation and economic growth could be quite profound.
Presumably more important — at least from a pro-Israel perspective — than the “potential economic windfall” for Americans is, as Hannah puts it, “how we can best exploit the coming energy boom to really enhance U.S. national security.” For him, enhancing U.S. security seems to be synonymous with going to war with Iran — notwithstanding the view of more objective analysts that this would seriously, if not fatally, exacerbate American insecurity. Nevertheless, according to the FDD fellow, the major obstacle to this supposedly security-enhancing military action are fears that it would lead to rocketing oil prices. To remove this problematic impediment in the way of another war for Israel, Hannah proposes:
It seems that what really needs to be part of the mix is a viable, bipartisan, market-driven strategy for reducing the monopoly that oil has over our transportation sector. If a sensible way could be found to begin moving some significant portion of U.S. cars and trucks to run on cheaper, domestically produced alternative fuels — natural gas, methanol, electric — it would largely eliminate the sword of Damocles that Middle Eastern tyrannies like Iran now hold over the West’s economic wellbeing and its strategic decision-making. That would put us on the path toward true energy independence, and restore to the United States a degree of flexibility, leverage, and strength to pursue its interests and values abroad, especially in the Middle East, that we have not known for at least a generation.
While acknowledging the difficulty of the task ahead, Hannah is cautiously optimistic:
Perhaps once the upcoming election is over, a new administration will be prepared to look seriously at developing a bipartisan, comprehensive energy strategy that both fully exploits America’s new oil and gas bonanza while taking meaningful steps to reduce our vulnerability to extortion by hostile, repressive dictatorships in unstable parts of the world.
And as luck would have it, there is already “one place that a new president should definitely look to mobilize ideas as well as political support.” Explains the FDD fellow:
Securing America’s Future Energy (an organization that I’m proud to advise), [...] has brought together an extraordinary group of American business and military leaders to highlight both the economic as well as national security dangers posed by our dependence on oil, and to recommend possible solutions. Co-chaired by Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx and General P.X. Kelley, former commandant of the Marine Corps, the group includes such luminaries as General Jack Keane, former vice chief of the Army; Admiral Dennis Blair, former director of national intelligence; David Steiner, CEO of Waste Management; Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines; and John Lehman, former undersecretary of the Navy.
So there you have it. America’s energy dependence on the Jewish state’s regional rivals may soon by a thing of the past thanks to the ingenuity of the new environmentally-friendly Israel lobby.
- Three Mile Island, Global Warming and the CIA (Aletho News)