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US Sanctions Policy on a Collision Course against Iran; Increasing Tensions with China

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett | Race for Iran | June 27th, 2012

America’s policy on Iran-related secondary sanctions is on a collision course with itself as well as China.  Secondary sanctions violate the United States’ obligations under the World Trade Organization and are, thus, illegal.  (While a WTO signatory may decide, on national security grounds, to restrict its trade with another country, there is no legal basis for one state to impose sanctions against another over business that the second state conducts with a third country.)  If Washington actually imposed secondary sanctions on another state for, say, buying Iranian oil and the sanctioned country took the United States to the WTO’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism, the United States would almost certainly lose the case.

Given this reality, the whole edifice of Iran-related secondary sanctions is in reality a house of cards.  It rests on an assumption that no state will ever really challenge the legitimacy of America’s Iran-related extraterritorial sanctions—and this means that the United States cannot ever really impose them.  Instead, successive U.S. administrations have used the threat of such sanctions to elicit modifications of other countries’ commercial relations with the Islamic Republic; when these administrations finally reach the limit of their capacity to leverage other countries’ decision-making regarding Iran, the United States backs off.

The Obama Administration is bringing this glaring contradiction increasingly to the fore, by supinely collaborating with the Congress to enact secondary sanctions into laws that give the executive branch less and less discretion over their actual application.  This dynamic is now coming to a head in the Administration’s dealings with China.

We are currently in China, as Visiting Scholars at Peking University’s School of International Studies.  And that means we are here during the run-up to formal implementation of the United States’ newest round of Iran-related secondary sanctions, due to go into effect on June 28.

These new sanctions, at least as legislated, threaten to punish financial and corporate entities in countries that continue to purchase Iranian oil at their historic levels of consumption.  So far, the Obama Administration has issued sanctions waivers to all of the major buyers of Iranian oil, see here and here—all the major buyers, that is, except the People’s Republic of China.

Trade data indicate that China’s imports of Iranian oil declined significantly in the first quarter of this year.  It is unclear to what extent this reduction was intended as an accommodation to the United States and to what extent it was the product of a payment dispute with Tehran.  But, whatever the reason, the reduction prompted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to note last week that “we’ve seen China slowly but surely take actions,” see here.  Clinton even seemed to hint that the Administration might be looking for an opening to waive the imposition of sanctions against China:  “I have to certify under American laws whether or not countries are reducing their purchases of crude oil from Iran and I was able to certify that India was, Japan was, South Korea was… And we think, based on the latest data, that China is also moving in that direction.”

Since the resolution of the payments dispute between China and Iran, however, China’s imports of Iranian oil have picked up once again, see here and here.  And the Chinese government continues to insist that the country’s purchases of oil from the Islamic Republic are “fully reasonable and legitimate,” see here.

Once June 28 comes the White House and State Department will be under enormous pressure from the Congress (Hill Democrats will provide the President no cover on the issue), the Romney campaign, and various domestic interest groups to sanction China over its continued oil buys from Iran.  The Administration’s alliance with Congress and the pro-Israel lobby on Iran sanctions, combined with its misguided assessment that the United States can somehow compel Iran’s “surrender” on the nuclear issue, have put the President and his team in a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position.  This is very much a problem of the Administration’s own making.

June 27, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Progressive Hypocrite, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why Do We Keep Building Needless Prisons?

By Amy Fettig, ACLU National Prison Project | June 26, 2012

Why are the Feds spending $250 million in taxpayer dollars to build an unnecessary and counter-productive prison for women in rural Aliceville, Alabama?

As the New York Times pointed out recently, most women in federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) custody are incarcerated for non-violent offenses; over half of them have minor children. Many of these women do not need to be incarcerated in order to protect public safety. Locking them up hundreds of miles away from their families, children and communities is exactly the wrong step to take if we want them to re-enter society successfully. Decades of research demonstrates the success of policies that keep prisoners near their homes – and for women especially, concern for their children is most often cited as a prime motivator for successful rehabilitation.

But visits to remote Aliceville by most prisoners’ family members and children will be difficult, if not impossible. And the increased recidivism and negative effects this will have on the women prisoners, their children, and the community will be devastating.

What could possibly justify a decision with such a predictably bad result? The BOP claims that its overcrowding problems continue to justify prison expansion, such as the Aliceville facility, but it’s hard to credit these claims – especially since the BOP has continually failed to implement sentencing reduction measures that would help alleviate overcrowding and lower the federal prison population at great savings to the taxpayer.

Here are just a few examples:

•    BOP does not allow prisoners to take full advantage of its community corrections programs, so that prisoners now serve an average of only four of the available 12 months in the community authorized by the Second Chance Act.

•    The Residential Drug Abuse Program incentive for nonviolent offenders is underutilized so that successful participants rarely receive the 12 month sentence reduction to which they are legally entitled.

•    BOP rarely uses its authority to request sentence modifications for “extraordinary and compelling reasons,” often referred to as “compassionate release,” which deprives sentencing judges of the opportunity to shorten the terms of deserving prisoners, especially the elderly and infirm whose continued imprisonment involves some of the highest prison costs.
These management failures lead to both over-incarceration and overcrowding and they waste millions: just by increasing home confinement by three months, the BOP could save up to $111.4 million each year.

In condemning the Aliceville facility as an example of misguided and costly policy, the New York Times noted that in contrast to the BOP, state corrections systems are scaling back incarceration due to its crushing costs. A recent report by the ACLU, Smart Reform is Possible, highlighted reform efforts in several states, including New York and Texas, which were both able to stop building prisons, save money and lower crime rates by implementing sensible alternatives to incarceration.

It’s time for BOP leadership to look to the states for new ideas and approaches. Based on the successful reforms being implemented around the country it’s clear that we don’t need another federal prison for women in a remote corner of Alabama. We need leadership dedicated to producing the best, most cost-effective outcomes for women, their children and the community.

June 27, 2012 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 5 Comments

Bedouins forced to leave their homes to make way for Israeli maneuvers

Palestine Information Center – 27/06/2012

JORDAN VALLEY — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) forced Bedouins inhabiting Wadi Al-Maleh in the northern Jordan Valley to leave their homes on Tuesday evening.

The municipal council of Al-Maleh and the Bedouin tribes said that the IOF command told the inhabitants that they should leave their homes for two days to make way for military exercises.

It said that the soldiers forcibly evacuated dozens of families from Wadi Al-Maleh.

The council said that the IOF regularly launches maneuvers near the area using live ammunition threatening lives of the inhabitants, adding that the Israeli army never launches such maneuvers near the Jewish settlements.

June 27, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Comments Off on Bedouins forced to leave their homes to make way for Israeli maneuvers

Israel Plans Demolition of Entire Palestinian Village

By Giulio Pusateri | IMEMC & Agencies | June 27, 2012

The Palestinian village of Susiya faces demolition orders for all of its 50 buildings after years of relative calm. The decision was contested with official and physical protests.

On the June 12 Israeli authorities told the villagers of Susya, a Palestinian village in the south Hebron hills, that the hamlet will be completely demolished, says news agency Ma’an. The demolition orders were preceded a week earlier by the prohibition of new construction in the village. The demolition is on behalf of a petition presented by a settler group who would like to exploit the village for itself.

The orders, which include the demolition of homes, a social center, a solar generator, and a health clinic, resulted in an official condemnation from the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Nearly 200 international protesters went to Susiya on June 22 to support the residents and contest the planned demolitions, reports the Palestinian News Network. Israeli forces stopped the demonstrators’ march using stun grenades and tear gas.

Demolition is nothing new Susiya, the village is neighbored by an Israeli settlement built on village lands. Israel declared the area an archeological site in the 1980s. In 1986 most of the Palesitian villagers were forced to the outskirts of their land. In 1999 the entire village was evacuated by the Israeli military before some residents were granted a temporary permission to return by the Israeli High Court.

Susiya is, under the Oslo Accords of 1993, defined as “Area C” and is in full Israeli control. During the last decade Israel has used this authority to expand settlements near Susiya and throughout Area C at the expense of Palestinians, who often see their villages and lands gradually and forcefully taken over.

Israel has ignored all domestic and international calls to stop the expansion of settlements despite having been found in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and various other binding international legal agreements in hundreds of cases.

June 27, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Comments Off on Israel Plans Demolition of Entire Palestinian Village

Israeli ex-top diplomat backs boycott

 Al Akhbar | June 27, 2012

Former top Israeli diplomat Alon Liel threw his backing behind renowned author Alice Walker’s decision to shun an Israeli publishing house, citing an international boycott against Israel for its oppression of Palestinians, the Times of Israel reported.

Liel, who served as Israel’s ambassador to South Africa between 1992 and 1994 and was also the director of Israel’s foreign ministry, said he supported the international campaign against Israel, adding that he too boycotted goods from illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

“If nobody speaks about the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict, nothing will happen. I think that such a move, boycotting products from Israeli factories in the settlements, is a kind of wake-up call,” he wrote in South Africa’s Business Day paper published on Sunday.

“I can understand the desire, by people of conscience, to reassert an agenda of justice, to remind Israelis that Palestinians exist. I can understand small but symbolic acts of protest that hold a mirror up to Israeli society,” he said

Liel went on to back Walker’s refusal to allow her best-selling novel “The Color Purple” be translated into Hebrew by an Israeli publishing firm to highlight the plight of the Palestinian people.

“I think it’s needed, yes. Unfortunately, I don’t see Israeli politicians waking up from these calls. But it’s better than nothing,” he said.

The former Israeli diplomat also defended South Africa’s decision to ban “Made in Israel” labels on products from the occupied West Bank.

“I cannot condemn the move to prevent goods made in the occupied Palestinian territory from being falsely classified as ‘Made in Israel.’ I support the South African government’s insistence on this distinction between Israel and its occupation,” he wrote in his column.

Palestinian children tortured

Britain is preparing to challenge Israel over alleged malpractices by the Jewish state of Palestinian children, which could amount to torture, The Independent newspaper reported on Wednesday.

An investigation by senior British lawyers – funded by the Foreign Office – included shocking acts of cruelty against detained Palestinian children, including solitary confinement, blindfolding and being forced to wear leg irons.

The findings, based largely on testimonies by Palestinian children from the West Bank, were published in Children in Military Custody.

“We were sitting in court and saw a section of a preliminary hearing when a very young looking child, a boy, was brought in wearing a brown uniform with leg irons on. We were shocked by that. This was a situation where we had been invited into the military courts for briefings from senior judges,” Greg Davies, a human rights barrister involved in the investigation wrote.

“To hold children routinely and for substantial periods in solitary confinement would, if it occurred, be capable of amounting to torture,” the report said.

The report also found Palestinian children were often dragged from the beds in the middle of the night, and subjected to verbal and physical abuse in jail in a bid to have them sign confessions they were not permitted to read, The Independent said.

Britain’s Foreign Office said it would “lobby” Israel “for further improvements” without clarifying.

“The UK government has had long-standing concerns about the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli detention, and as a result decided to fund this independent report. While recognizing that some positive recent steps have been made by the Israeli authorities, we share many of the report’s concerns, and will continue to lobby for further improvements,” The Independent quoted the Foreign Office as saying.

Israel maintains a military occupation of the West Bank, and a siege on Gaza, subjecting the indigenous Palestinian population to extremely harsh measures that many activists have dubbed apartheid.

(Al-Akhbar, Times of Israel, The Independent)

June 27, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Comments Off on Israeli ex-top diplomat backs boycott

The Wake-Up May Be Too Late

By Philip Giraldi | The Passionate Attachment | June 27, 2012

Is it possible that Americans are finally waking up to the dangers resulting from Washington’s involvement in Israel’s foreign policy? In the New York Times on June 24th there was an astonishing feature opinion piece by Professor Misha Glenny writing from London about “A Weapon We Can’t Control.” The editorial slammed the “decision by the United States and Israel to develop and then deploy the Stuxnet computer worm against an Iranian nuclear facility,” describing the development as a “significant and dangerous turning point in the gradual militarization of the internet.” Glenny warned that to use such a devastating weapon in peacetime will “very likely lead to the spread of similar and still more powerful offensive cyberweaponry across the Internet,” also noting that “virus developers generally lose control of their inventions, which will inevitably seek out and attack the networks of innocent parties.”

Glenny also mentioned the second generation Flame virus, developed jointly by Israel and the US, and which has now spread to computers throughout the Middle East.

On the same day in the same issue of the Times, Jimmy Carter chimed in with an op-ed, “A Cruel and Unusual Record,” which asserted that “Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended.” Carter did not mention Israel or name President Obama, but the decade long transition of the United States into a nation that believes itself to be above the law, following the Israeli example, would have been all too clear for the reader.

One day before the editorial and op-ed’s appearance, there was also another emperor’s new clothes moment at the Times. Regular columnist Nicholas Kristof had just completed a trip across Iran with his family in tow. And guess what? He found in “Not-So-Crazy in Tehran” that Iran was a “complex country,” not a police state, has a “vigorous parliament and news media,” and most university students are women who later obtain important jobs after graduation. Kristof’s advice? “Let’s not bluster…or operate on caricatures. And let’s not choose bombs over sanctions…”

I would add that it is about time that people in the United States begin to realize that unlimited support of Israel has turned US foreign policy into the poison that is bidding to destroy the republic.

Alas, over the same weekend that the Times was possibly coming to its senses, Mitt Romney was meeting in Park City Utah with his large donors. At a breakout session to discuss his support of Israel he revealed that he speaks regularly with Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to get advice on the Middle East. Unseemly does not begin to describe such an arrangement, as Oren is not exactly a disinterested party re the advice he is giving. Oh, and Bill Kristol and Michael Chertoff also spoke to the pro-Israel group.

Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues.

June 27, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment