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Working for International Dialogue and Peace
Unsurprisingly, this sorry piece of history leaves European and Asian banks very nervous and they have asked for watertight guarantees that the DoJ will not penalise them if they heed Mr Kerry’s appeal. He has hitherto been unable, or unwilling, to persuade the department to do this. So the banks have effectively gone on strike and are not dealing with Iran again. “This is a very odd position for the US government to be taking,” Stuart Levey, chief legal officer of HSBC observed earlier this summer, noting that the bank would not follow Mr Kerry’s lead since there “are no assurances as to how such activity would subsequently be viewed by US regulatory and law-enforcement authorities”. Or as the chief executive of another European bank privately observes: “The American position is so bizarre, we can’t take the risk.” ››read more
According to a preliminary report, the sailors originally set out from Kuwait for Bahrain but quickly -- and unknowingly -- went off course and headed almost directly for Iran's Farsi Island in the middle of the Persian Gulf. The report indicated that the sailors were not aware of Farsi Island's location and instead believed a small Saudi island was what they were supposed to be sailing around. As the sailors unknowingly approached the Iranian island, they had already missed one scheduled check-in phone call with their command center, and the command center for some reason did not notice that the tracking equipment on board had them headed for Iranian waters. ››read more
While presenting the moves as “an interception” and “unsafe and unprofessional,” the video footage showed the speedboats barely visible in the distance, before zooming in to present them as somewhat larger, blurrier shapes in the distance. While the US warship fired some flares up into the air and made some unspecific noises, the Iranian boats didn’t appear to react, and never interacted with the US ship in any way other than being close enough that someone was able to see them. ››read more
Australia has dropped trade sanctions with Iran, but in the United States they remain in place. Sydney-based exporter and importer Christopher Cox told PM he took his business to the ANZ bank because of its far-reaching international branch network, compared with other local banks. But ANZ said it would not provide the channel needed to send and receive between Australia and Iran, leaving Mr Cox extremely frustrated, as all the other necessary financial and business infrastructures to do business abroad are in place. ››read more
The cash payment to the Iranian government is at the center of a new fight between Republicans and the Obama administration. Republicans allege that the payment was a ransom in exchange for the release of three American prisoners in Iran. President Obama has denied that it was a ransom and dismissed the criticism. He said it was money the U.S. owed to Iran and had been announced months ago as part of a larger diplomatic agreement over Tehran's nuclear program. The payment was part of a $1.7 billion settlement resolving a dispute from an arms deal that occurred in the 1970s. ››read more
Even more important than economic concerns are Iran’s security anxieties. The nuclear deal has not led to a toning down of attacks against Iran. On the contrary, attacks in Congress against the deal are continuing, and both presidential candidates project Iran as a big threat to America. Regional states, notably Saudi Arabia and Israel, are waiting for President Obama to leave office in the hopes that the next president will revive the military option against Iran. Despite their bravado, Iran’s leaders, including the Revolutionary Guards, treat these threats seriously. They might believe that the US will think twice before attacking Iran if it felt that it might lead to Russia’s involvement. Meanwhile, Iran’s regional rivals have increased their sabotage activities in Iran using—at least according to Iranian sources—Islamic State elements. The recent suspicious fires in Iran’s petrochemical industry have raised fears of sabotage, including cyberattacks on its sensitive industrial facilities.
A hospital associated with Doctors Without Borders. A school. A potato chip factory. Under international law, those facilities in Yemen are not legitimate military targets. Yet all were bombed in recent days by warplanes belonging to a coalition led by Saudi Arabia, killing more than 40 civilians.
The United States is complicit in this carnage. It has enabled the coalition in many ways, including selling arms to the Saudis to mollify them after the nuclear deal with Iran. Congress should put the arms sales on hold and President Obama should quietly inform Riyadh that the United States will withdraw crucial assistance if the Saudis do not stop targeting civilians and agree to negotiate peace. ››read more
Editor's note: This NYT editorial proves that even the establishment newspapers in the US cannot deny the reality of the atrocities committed in Yemen by the US and UK backed coalition of Sunni Arab states headed by Saudi Arabia.
U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which codifies the agreement, was adopted under Article 41 of the U.N. Charter, which empowers the Security Council to "decide what measures not involving the use of armed force are to be employed to give effect to its decisions." This is distinct from Article 42, which allows for military force only if nonmilitary means "have proved to be inadequate" and only if the Security Council specifically authorized it. Therefore, the Democrats' insistence that the United States should "not hesitate to take military action if Iran violates the agreement," like the Republicans' promise to "retain all options" regarding Iran, is nothing short of rejection of U.S. obligations under the United Nations Charter. ››read more
Lieberman was brought into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition, and named as defense minister just over two months ago under contentious circumstances. “Delusional,” an “insult” to the army, and a manifestation of a “budding fascism” within Israeli society were just some of the political reactions to his appointment. Lieberman is well known for his hard-line and ultranationalist rhetoric and his blatant race-baiting of Israel’s Palestinian citizens. He has called the community, which makes up 20 percent of the population, a “fifth column,” saying openly that any deemed disloyal to the state should have their “heads cut off.”
This is an important distinction because it was one of the major talking points over the Iran Deal generally. Opponents of the deal criticized it for “giving” billions of dollars to Iran, which might then be used to sponsor terrorism (which in the present context, largely means backing Hezbollah against Al Qaeda in Syria, but I digress). In the same way, many of those critics call the $400 million a ransom payment. In both cases, the implication is that Iran is gaining resources it had no legitimate claim to beforehand; and in both cases, it is wrong. The US (and its partners, presumably) has impounded vast amounts of Iranian assets since the Iranian Revolution, and the deal was simply designed to restore Iran’s access to those resources.
UANI has been an outspoken critic of Iran since the organisation’s founding. UANI’s position has often run counter to that of the Obama administration – most notably when the NGO objected to the negotiation of the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. “UANI is one of the many institutions that is actively lobbying against business with Iran,” Dr. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, chair of Iranian studies at the University of London, told FRANCE 24. “It is staffed by prominent US decision-makers with a long track record of suspicion towards the Iranian state.” ››read more
So where did Trump concoct such a tale? After all, the campaign has said he has yet to receive daily classified briefings afforded to presidential candidates. Well, it turns out he saw it on TV. Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks admitted to TheWashington Post that footage Trump was referring to was not, in fact, top secret. It was b-roll from a Fox News segment. That wasn’t exactly a reassuring answer for members of the U.S. national security community who are already nervous that Trump could say or tweet classified information. Rather it confirmed their already existing fears that sensitive information could be mistreated—and now made up all together. ››read more
Coming to MKO’s meeting in France and participating of a former top Saudi official there, Goulet said that “we always encourage the countries in the region to establish closer relationship for more enduring regional peace. The recent gathering of exiled Iranian terrorist group in France known as MKO and presence of some Saudi figures hopefully shall not be interpreted as position of current administration of KSA”. Members of the MKO fled to Iraq in 1986, where they enjoyed the support of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and set up Camp Ashraf near the Iranian border in Diyala. The group has carried out numerous terrorist acts against Iranian civilians and government officials. The terror organization is also known to have cooperated with Saddam in suppressing the 1991 uprisings in southern Iraq and the massacre of Iraqi Kurds in the north. Goulet said that the MKO is a big imposture and tries to appears as a solution for a replacement of Iranian regime. ››read more
“Today, fighting terrorism, in any form and place, is an urgent demand of the world community... that should be considered as the top priority by all countries in an international consensus,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA. “The killings of innocent and defenseless people have become another stain on human history,” Qasemi said. ››read more
Szubin’s portfolio is managing and maintaining the Iranian sanctions inside Treasury. As we have reported, there has been an amazing continuity in his office. Founded in 2004, there have been three under secretaries for terrorism and financial intelligence, and all three were obvious nods to the neoconservative/Israel lobby base of the D.C. establishment, and all of little apparent interest to President Obama, asleep at the switch. Szubin’s predecessor as under secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence was David S. Cohen, whose predecessor was Stuart A. Levey. Cohen and Levey had been associates in the same law firm. Szubin had served as Levey’s counsel. It’s an unbroken chain. Levey wrote his thesis at Harvard under Marty Peretz, about saving the Zionist “dream” from Kahanists. While David Cohen had the approval of Alan Dershowitz. Szubin’s ideology is not at all transparent, but his father was a Holocaust survivor, and AllGov notes his establishment and Orthodox Jewish credentials. ››read more
News reports about the recently released 28 pages of the Joint Inquiry into the 9/11 attacks are typically dismissive: this is nothing new, it’s just circumstantial evidence, and there’s no “smoking gun.” Yet given what the report actually says – and these news accounts are remarkably sparse when it comes to verbatim quotes – it’s hard to fathom what would constitute a smoking gun. ››read more
Though Barr didn’t get too deeply into this aspect, she also revealed that about one-fifth of all complaints about the Syria programs related to shipments being diverted into the hands of various militant groups. USAID suspended six programs already related to this. Barr denied any aid was diverted to ISIS, but admitted a growing amount was ending up in the hands of al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front. ››read more
The one-year anniversary of the Iran nuclear agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is naturally an occasion for stock-taking, as such anniversaries commonly are. Much spinning is mixed in with the stock-taking, and it is worthwhile to take stock of the spinning as well as of the reality that is relevant to the agreement.
The most obvious and noteworthy part of the reality is that Iran has fully observed the extensive, very limiting and intrusive, provisions of the agreement regarding its nuclear program. The Iranian record of compliance actually extends back significantly longer than a year. Before the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action there was a preliminary agreement, the Joint Plan of Action, which came into effect in January 2014 and included most of the limitations on Iran that also would enter into the later agreement. Iran now has been in compliance for two and a half years with stringent restrictions on its nuclear program agreed to in multilateral negotiations. ››read more
The report also mentions that numbers found in the phonebook of Abu Zubaydah, a detainee currently held in Guantánamo, could be traced to a company in Denver, Colorado, connected to former Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Prince Bandar bin Sultan. One of the most notable figures mentioned is Omar al-Bayoumi, alleged by the report to have likely been a Saudi intelligence agent. Al-Bayoumi was in close contact with hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Midhar, providing them financial assistance during their time in the United States and even helping them find an apartment. Bayoumi in turn is believed to have been on the payroll of the Saudi Ministry of Defense and was regularly in receipt of large lump sums of money from the Saudi Ministry of Finance and other undisclosed arms of the government. ››read more
Mark Dubowitz was back on Capitol Hill testifying for 90 minutes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee alongside Richard Nephew, the former Obama administration sanctions negotiator. Nephew stressed that Iran has partially dismantled and significantly restricted its nuclear activities as promised – in other words, the deal is working. Dubowitz focused on Iran’s long-term pathway to a nuclear weapon after the deal expires, and he and Nephew agreed that Iran is engaged in ongoing terrorism and missile development. Obama’s threat to veto any measures that undermine the deal leaves Dubowitz and his allies undaunted. In a report out Thursday, he made 16 recommendations on how to wield non-nuclear sanctions against Iran, presenting them to Senate and House committees. Back in his office near Dupont Circle after leaving the Senate, he was sketching out suggestions for bipartisan legislation on a white board and adding notes to two black ring binders dedicated to the deal. His group is giving advice, he says, to both presidential candidates’ campaigns. ››read more