Sanction Loopholes – A stab in the back?

The economic sanctions against Iran that are meant to stop Iran from gaining nuclear capability have been widely accepted by the EU since October the 15thIn fact, EU countries such as Germany, France and the UK are pressing for stronger sanctions and the Iranian economy is definitely hurting.

And yet, there are still numerous loopholes that Iran is using to circumvent sanctions. The obvious loopholes originate in numerous Non Aligned Movement (NAM) countries who side with Iran. Other loopholes were discovered in Iran’s relations with China and Russia who want to cash in on Iran’s situation.

These points of weakness are originated in the global system, and cannot be controlled (and hardly even manipulated) by the European Union. But other loopholes are in fact originating in the EU and its neighbors. 

Sweden has stated that is does not support the sanctions and there are speculations as to whether this results from Sweden’s wish to stay neutral (as in WW2), because of Swedish business with Iran. Some European businesses are eager to cash in as well – a money laundering ring was discovered in Austria, German companies still ship sensitive equipment to Iran, Italian auto manufacturers are not ready to give up their businesses in Iran and the Dutch Shell company is trying to workaround the sanctions through grain barters.

And let’s keep in mind some high-profile EU neighbors such as Switzerland who want to retain their age-old neutrality regardless of the fact that a nuclear powered Iran will not distinguish between “neutral” or EU countries. Iran’s current regime does not, in fact, debate with European countries as separate entities – It treats them as a unilateral player. 

Whether sanctions can stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions or not is still to be seen. What is certain is that while sanctions are implied, loopholes such as direct or by proxy economic cooperation, are stabbing the efficiency of these sanctions in the back: Stabbing as they are emptying the sanctions of meaning and effect, In the back as this is not done by transparent, public diplomacy style decisions but in the dark, where citizens and politicians alike are hardly aware of it.

Advertisements

Award winning activists in Europe – Isolated prisoners in Iran

The announcing of an EU delegation to Iran was received with mixed feelings among activists and politicians alike. While any sign of cooperation and communication may be a positive sign and a beacon for a new way in the ongoing global debate with and over Iran, the arrival of such delegation with no preconditions could have been used by the Iranian regime as a proof of approval from the European union; and thus neutralize the effect of sanctions and diplomatic moves taken to create change of Iranian policies (in military and human rights aspects). The cancellation of the Delegation by Iranian parliament announced just now confirms the worries that Iran will only cooperate with the west on its own conditions, and is not willing to change.

The delegation was cancelled over the request to meet two activists awarded a Sakharov prize for Human Rights and freedom by the EU just this Friday.  The Iranian parliament mentioned in its decline that they are, in fact, prisoners. But they are not criminals – Their activity was political and involved with supporting the opposition after the questionable elections of June 2009. Appreciated, award winning activists in the west are isolated prisoners in Iran – Let this fact be remembered in all future negotiations with Iran. 

Al Jazeera reported:

Iran has cancelled a European Parliament delegation visit to Tehran after the group asked to meet two jailed Iranian dissidents awarded a top EU rights prize, a parliament spokeswoman said.

The decision came after senior officials at the parliament, which on Friday awarded its Sakharov prize for human rights and freedom of thought to filmmaker Jafar Panahi andhuman rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, said they wanted the delegation to meet the two activists.

“After hearing the new conditions, the Iranians decided to cancel,” European Parliament spokeswoman Satu Helin told the Reuters news agency. The delegation was set to travel to Tehran from October 27 to November 2.

Iran’s Mehr news agency quoted an Iranian parliamentary official as saying the European delegation had stated as a “precondition” a visit with Sotoudeh and Panahi.

Europe’s Responsibility

An opinion article by Konstanin Alexandrov (co-editor of Iran 24/07)

It has been over six decades since the eyes of the world were focused on Europe as they are today. The world, it seems, is heading  into a state of war and Europe will once again play a main part in this impending conflict. In contrast to WWII, Europe’s part in a possible conflict will not be as the main geographic stage, but as the continent who’s diplomatic actions could de facto lead to conflict or peace.

Both Iran and the US are trying to steer European actions in their favor. On the one hand, the Iranian delegation to the UN general assembly had met with a vast array of European delegates including (but not limited to) the foreign ministers of; Germany, Sweden, Norway, Ukraine, Georgia and Belarus. These meetings were held for the purpose arranging a meeting between European representative and Iran at the End of this month in Tehran. On the other hand, the US is trying to steer the European leaders away from Iran, claiming that meeting with Iranian leaders will legitimize the Iranian nuclear program, and insure Iran’s entrance into the the zone of nuclear immunity.

Europe has been blamed before for not sopping wars by undertaking the wrong diplomatic actions and this might happen again. The European leaders now have the choice between their natural allies, or a side which stands against everything European democracies cherish. If European leaders choose the latter, and decide to attend the meeting in Tehran, they may find themselves yet again being blamed for a war that they could have stopped.

It is the responsibility of the European leaders not only to boycott the meeting in Tehran, but to openly speak against the existence of such a meeting. Only when Iran understands that the world as a single unit is against their nuclear program, could the program be stopped, and war be averted.

Iran’s Inhumane Rights

The Iranian government had claimed that it is “dedicated to human rights”, furthermore, that Iran is a “beacon of hope” for such rights. However, the Iranian human rights record shows differently. Here are a few things you should know about human rights in Iran:

Death penalty

Since the 2009 uprising against the Iranian regime a stark increase in executions had occurred. The death penalty, which according to international law is allowed only when a defendant is found guilty of the most extreme offenses is routinely introduced in cases where defendants are found guilty of comparatively minor offenses (such as drug offenses). Not only is the death penalty undertaken for minor offenses, but an Amnesty international report found that in many cases convicted criminals were not awarded a fair trial. Furthermore, Iran not only illegally executes criminals, but also executes members of the political opposition; the “International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran” (ICHRI) had reported in 2010 that at least nine political prisoners were executed since the 2009 uprising. Finally, it is important to note that according to a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, execution in Iran is permitted by law for girls from the age of 9 and boys from the age of 15. This not only points toward the murder of children (HRW note that Iran leads the world in the execution of juvenile offenders), but also towards discrimination based on gender (further discussed billow).

Freedom of expression

The Iranian regime widely oppresses freedom of expression. Not only does the regime attempt to control the content published on the internet, but the regime also actively oppresses protests by the use of imprisonment and force. For example, in February Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa program had stated that “in Iran today you put yourself at risk if you do anything that might fall outside the increasingly narrow confines of what the authorities deem socially or politically acceptable…anything from setting up a social group on the internet, forming or joining an NGO, or expressing your opposition to the status quo can land you in prison”.

Women Rights

As noted above the Iranian legal system discriminates on the basis of gender. Indeed, the ICHRI reported that “Iran’s criminal code deeply violates the principle of equality embedded in the universal declaration of human rights”. Violations of women rights in Iran are apparent in all levels of society, for example, Iranian Nobel prize laureate Shirin Ebadi had demanded a UN investigation into the baring of Iranian women into more than 70 university degree courses. Furthermore, ICHRI reported that “women suffer legal discrimination with regards to their obligations to obey husbands; restrictions on travel; divorce; legal custody and nationality of children; the right to work” and more. Indeed, ICHRI reported such gruesome facts as the permission to legally murder a wife if she is suspected of committing adultery

Treatment of minorities

In June 2012 the European Parliament condemned Iran’s violation of minorities rights. In a damming article by the FIDH (the International Federation for Human Rights) titled “The Hidden Side of Iran- discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities”, the FIDH outlined the extensive discrimination against minority groups. The FIDH had noted that contrary to the Iranian regime’s claim that there is no religious discrimination in Iran, the Islamic republic’s constitution actually states that the specific Muslim religious school- “the Twelver Ja’afari School of Shia” – is the official religion of Iran, with Suni Muslims being granted a higher status than other religious minorities. Furthermore, according to the FIDH report the Iranian constitution does not recognize a number of faiths, which include (among others) “the Bahai faith, and various branches of Sufis”. Moreover, according to the Iranian constitution, atheists or non-believers  have no right to exist. The FIDH noted that the ongoing deliberate refusal of recognizing other religious or belief systems is “in stark contrast to Article 18 of the International Convenient on civil and Political Rights to which Iran is a state party…and contravenes Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.

The following examples are among the countless religiously based discriminating laws in Iran noted by the FIDH: only a Shia muslim can be elected as president (and only muslims can be parliament members); a muslim man can marry a non-muslim women but not vice versa;  a non-muslim would be sentenced to death if he is found to engage in same-sex relations, while a muslim will “only” be lashed; people are allowed to choose their own profession as long as it is not contrary to Islam; a student cannot be selected to university if he/she is hostile to the Islamic republic of Iran (hostility includes “promoting materialism or man-made religions) etc’.

With reference to ethnic communities, the FIDH reported that official documents of the Iranian regime fail to report the population figure of the many ethnic minorities residing in Iran. Discrimination against  ethnic minorities is wide spread, apart from denying ethnic minorities the opportunity to learn their mother tongue, they also suffer from many other discriminatory realities, for example;  Arabs in Iran suffer from low employment rates compared to national average, Azeris suffer from disrespect and inconsideration to their culture and language (e.g. Azeri military personnel have been expelled because they took part in Azeri-Turkic cultural activities and celebrations), Kurds suffer due to being both Sunnis and an ethnic group- they are denied political, economic and religious rights.

It can clearly be seen from the above that Iran is no human rights “beacon of hope” under the current regime, rather Iran it is the symbol of deep despair. The “rights” and obligations given to the Iranian citizens are far from humane, rather they are inhumane.

Stop Funding Death – 5 Reasons to cut funding of drug campaigns in Iran

Originally posted in Iran – Addicted to Death

1. Over 70% of total executions in Iran are of individuals sentenced to death under Iran’s Anti-Narcotics Law, which mandates the death penalty for a wide range of drug-related offenses.  According to reports from human rights groups that document executions in Iran from both official and unofficial sources, roughly 650 executions were carried out in 2010 and 670 in 2011. So far, in 2012, at least 330 individuals have been executed. 

2. Even if you support the capital punishment in general, these numbers are regarded concerning by officials and professionals. The UN secretary-general and the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran both expressed concern in 2011 about the high number of executions for drug-related offenses. In October 2011, the UN Human Rights Committee recommended that the Iranian authorities consider abolishing the death penalty or at least revising the penal code to restrict the death penalty to only the “most serious crimes.”  The British foreign secretary, William Hague, recently condemned Iran’s leadership for the ‘continued, widespread persecution of ethnic minorities, human rights defenders and political prisoners’

3. Iranian leaders of the current regime have repeatedly failed to answer to questions on the matter, giving vague or irrelevant answers at best. While human rights groups have raised concerns to the Iranian government about the mandatory death sentencing for drug-related offenses, the Iranian authorities have failed to respond to this criticism in any meaningful fashion.

4. In spite of repeated pleas by opposition figures and NGOs, the mullah regime refuses to allow international entities such as UN chief Mr. Ban Ki-Moon to visit prisons and meet prisoners captured due to unnamed offences. 

5. Executions are not limited to convicted felons or even suspects – Every Iranian citizen is in danger.  Shadi Sadr, Executive Director of London-based Justice for Iran, says “Our research shows how thousands of people, including women who are the single-income providers for their children, have been sentenced to death without minimum standards of due process whilst Iranian judges and other authorities that bear responsibility in these severe violations of human rights violation enjoy absolute impunity.”

Share this post or just the Image, communicate with your representatives and help stopping the funding of  systematic murders.

Tweet to Yuri Fedotov, executiv director of UN ODC @yurifedotov and demand his response and denunciation!

Sources:

IR Human Rights Documentation Center

Intl. Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

News Track India

UN Human Rights News

Human Rights Watch

It’s time for Europe to step up

Although time is measurable, it is still a subjective phenomena; five minutes for one person can be longer or shorter than five minutes for another. This is true not only for individuals but also for groups and even states. Leaders, groups and states value time differently based on an analysis of their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). This is precisely the reason why no two countries can completely agree on diplomatic or (to a further extent) military policies.

A SWOT analysis for each country or region concerning the possible upcoming confrontation surrounding Iran would probably look like this:

Threats

Opportunities

Weaknesses

Strengths

Country/Region

Nuclear or military extinction because of geographical size & proximity to Iran & surrounding neighbors.

Re-assertion of  Israel as the only true Western and democratic ally in the Middle East.

War-weary public and open criticism against war-mongering.

A strong army, strong western allies, and its back against a wall (both a strength and threat).

Israel

War and civil/”dirty” bombs casualties and loss of respect worldwide.

Re-assertion of  the US as the dominant force in the world.

War-weary public and a struggling economy.

The most powerful army in the world and its nuclear arsenal.

US

War and civil/”dirty” bombs casualties and loss of respect worldwide

Re-assertion of Europe’s dominance at the US’s side.

An economic and identity crisis weakening the structure of the EU.

A huge power house if united and legitimacy to the Western world.

EU

War casualties, loss of respect by allies and loss of control at home.

Lead a “global change” by uniting third world and Islam.

Sanctions leading to an economic disaster and public unrest.

The missile program, NAM allies and its back against the wall.

Iran

Loss of respect from all states leading to possible dissolution of the UN.

Re-assertion of the UN as the ultimate world governing body.

Weakened every time states disobey or dismiss UN resolutions.

Still the largest global governing organization in the world.

UN

From the table above it is quite easy to understand how the perception of the time remaining until  a conflict arises is not the same for all; Iran is rushing for time with Israel hot on its heels, while in parallel the US, the EU and the UN waiting to see what will develop.

According to Israel time is running out fast: delaying a preemptive strike on Iran beyond June 2013 would ensure Iran’s entrance to the zone of nuclear immunity changing forever the status quo that gives Israel its breathing space to live and grow. It is this sense of urgency that permeates Israel’s outlook, rhetoric and diplomatic strategy leading Israeli prime-minister Benjamin Netanyahu to draw red lines and pressure the US administration to do the same. In short, Israel’s SWOT analysis leads to one conclusion- deal with Iran now because it will be impossible to deal with Iran later.

The US, on the other hand, wants more time: time for the UN-backed sanctions to pressure the Iranian regime to forego its nuclear ambitions, time to get more concrete details on Iran’s nuclear program and time to get the national elections over with. The US clearly hears the warning bells vocalized by Israel and the IAEA, but it does not want to speed into a conflict which may be avoided if the Iranian regime buckles under the pressure of sanctions.

Iran has a much more complicated outlook on time: On one hand, the Iranian regime is trying to buy time in order to complete its nuclear program, on the other hand, time to complete the program is becoming increasingly shorter due to both the Iranian economy and its citizens, not being able afford the UN-imposed sanctions for much longer. Iranian leaders are buying for time by being anything but transparent with their nuclear program and by keeping opposition leaders and civil unrest under wraps. At the same time, the Iranian regime is wooing whoever is ready to listen and whoever has a belly-full on Imperialists/Colonialists (the US, EU and Israel) to give it more leeway in the UN and perhaps, later on, in the military field.

The EU countries, in general, opt for an “ostrich” strategy hoping that if they bury their heads in the sand something positive will happen. Yes, the UK and France have issued “we are worried” statements on Iran, but Europe seems to be too busy with its looming economic and identity crisis to look beyond its borders. What they do not want to realize is that by shutting themselves out of the Iranian equation, they are polarizing this conflict between Iran and the US/Israel and are legitimizing Iran’s repeated transgressions regarding its nuclear ambitions. Once Iran does gain nuclear immunity, the stakes will rise and Europe will have no choice but to side against Iran but by then, it will be too late.

For the reasons above, the key to averting a conflict with Iran lies in the EU’s pockets. However, shortsightedness and procrastination are causing EU leaders to either forget that the key is there, or worse, to be afraid of being seen with the key in hand. By relinquishing the responsibility of stopping an impending War- WW3, EU leaders  will be responsible for allowing it to occur, just as Chamberlain and the rest of the European leaders were deemed responsible for not averting WW2.