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Posts Tagged ‘ Brad Sherman ’

  • 30 July 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Human Rights in Iran, Legislative Agenda, Sanctions, UN

Congressional push for sanctions on food and medicine

It’s that time of year again–when Republicans and Democrats in Congress takes a break from wringing each other’s necks to pass a piece of legislation to “tighten the noose” around Iran just in time for campaign season.

For those just checking in, here’s an example of what our current sanctions are already doing on the ground in Iran (via Tehran Bureau):

The board of directors of the Iranian Hemophilia Society has informed the World Federation of Hemophilia that the lives of tens of thousands of children are being endangered by the lack of proper drugs, a consequence of international economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic.

The Iranian Hemophilia Society notes that U.S., EU, and UN sanctions technically do not ban medical goods.  In fact, there is a so-called “humanitarian exemption” in U.S. sanctions that is supposed to exempt humanitarian goods like medicine, medical goods, and food.

And yet medicine is not getting in to Iran as “sanctions imposed on the Central Bank of Iran and the country’s other financial institutions have severely disrupted the purchase and transfer of medical goods.”

It turns out that imposing the broadest, most indiscriminate, crippling-est, noose tightening sanctions ever (did I miss anything in there?) means that a few piecemeal exemptions for food or medicine, or even  Internet communication tools, don’t really stand up.

  • 9 March 2012
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 2 Comments
  • Sanctions

Dumb and Dumber Sanctions

What happens when Senator Mark Kirk and Rep. Brad Sherman — the two leading advocates in Congress for sanctions that deliberately hurt the Iranian people — get together to design a new Iran sanctions package with the neoconservative “Foundation for Defense of Democracies”?

The result is legislation that would impose extraterritorial sanctions on all Iranian banks and make foreign central banks subject to a U.S. sanctions if they engage in any significant transaction with Iran.  These sanctions would build on the already draconian sanctions on Iran’s central bank that Congress passed last year, and would further compound problems that those sanctions are already causing.

Despite having an exemption for humanitarian items, the sanctions on the Iranian Central Bank are choking off sales of food, medicine, and medical devices — including even those explicitly licensed by the U.S. Treasury.  The chilling effect has been so strong that foreign banks simply won’t facilitate the transactions even though they’re perfectly legal and have the U.S. government’s stamp of approval.  Extending the extraterritorial sanctions to all Iranian banks would be the nail in the coffin for trade in these humanitarian items because there simply wouldn’t be any Iranian banks that could transfer the money needed to actually pay for these goods.

Of course, Iran and foreign countries will set up elaborate workarounds for lucrative oil sales and other major transactions, but it is much less certain whether ordinary Iranians will be able to continue purchasing imported medicine and medical devices.  After all, why would an American company even bother to apply to get a license to sell a medical device in Iran if there is no way to actually sell the device in Iran?

It is unclear if this will concern the bill’s sponsors.  After all, Israeli officials recently went on the record advocating for sanctions to literally starve ordinary Iranians in order to try to get the regime to capitulate on the nuclear issue.

As for sanctioning other countries’ central banks, the downsides are obvious enough.  Imagine how the following conversation might end:

“Hey China, stop trading with Iran or we’ll sanction your central bank. Yes, your central bank…  Umm yeah, I know you have a trillion U.S. Treasury bills…”

Soon enough we’ll hear that these sanctions are necessary to make diplomacy work and won’t spike the price of gas.  When that happens, just remember the words of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Executive Director, Mark Dubowitz, who has said that the sanctions he is advocating for “would quash any hopes for progress through engagement” and “could also shock the oil markets, possibly causing considerable political trouble for Obama in an election year.”

  • 1 March 2012
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Sanctions

Collective punishment was always the point of crippling Iran sanctions

A YNet article, “Israeli officials: Starve Iranians to stop nukes” is reopening the debate about what is the goal of our broad sanctions regime against Iran, with some saying such sentiments reek of collective punishment.

But really, the cat has been out of the bag on this one for a long time.  Broad, indiscriminate, “crippling” sanctions on Iran have always been designed to inflict pain on ordinary Iranians.  The leading supporters of crippling sanctions admitted years ago that  collective punishment was exactly the point.

See the rationale for crippling sanctions as explained by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), when he was asked in August 2010 why the Obama Administration was resisting his aggressive push for an oil embargo on Iran:

Q: The oil embargo or quarantine sounds like a very plausible alternative … why the opposition from the administration?

Kirk: Um, in a discussion I recently had with administrative officials they said we would feel worried that it would hurt the Iranian people… (laughs)

But it’s that actual pain that I think has to be imposed, in my view, a gasoline quarantine would immediately trigger anti-American demonstrations in downtown Tehran, organized by the regime.

But over time the regime fears large groups of people gathering because as you know a mob can turn very quickly.

When you hear that you can’t get enough gasoline that day, and you read in the state controlled paper that it’s Barack Obama’s fault, you’ll be mad at Barack Obama that week.

But as your factory closed down and as the refrigerator starts to run out, the naturally tendency of any people is turn to their own leader and say “fix this”.

I cannot feed a nuclear weapon to my family. It is more important to feed my family than eat nuclear weapons. And that’s the dilemma you want to put them in.

And don’t forget Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA), author of legislation aimed at crashing Iranian civilian planes, who explained:

“Critics [of the sanctions] argued that these measures will hurt the Iranian people.  Quite frankly, we need to do just that.”

The irony here is that, particularly in Kirk’s case, the supporters of crippling sanctions all claim to be supporters of human rights in Iran.  They just don’t support the right for Iranians to eat.

It is also interesting to note the two shining examples of broad sanctions we have seen over the last two decades: Iraq – where a ruthless dictator thrived while his people died under brutal sanctions, and ultimately was only toppled through trillion dollar U.S. military invasion and occupation; and North Korea – where a ruthless regime continues to stay fat,  happy, and nuclear armed while its subjects starve to death.

  • 8 July 2011
  • Posted By David Elliott
  • 2 Comments
  • MEK

Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) Factsheet

MEK=TERROR
In a matter of weeks, a terrorist group known as the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) may succeed in getting removed from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations — not as a result of any change of heart — but as a result of an unprecedented and possibly illegal multi-million dollar media and lobbying blitz.

Iranian Americans know the truth about the MEK, but high-priced public relations and lobbying firms are hard at work trying to whitewash the MEK’s violent and disturbing record. And while they’ve been remarkably successful, they can’t completely escape the truth.  So, for the record, here are the facts about the MEK (you can find this and more at www.mekterror.com):

  • The State Department reports the MEK is a terrorist group that has murdered innocent Americans and maintains “the will and capacity” to commit terrorist attacks within the U.S. and beyond. [1]
  • The MEK claims to have renounced terrorism in 2001, but a 2004 FBI report states “the MEK is currently actively involved in planning and executing acts of terrorism.” [2]
  • RAND and Human Rights Watch have reported that the MEK is a cult that abuses its own members. [3] [4]
  • MEK has no popular support in Iran and has been denounced by the Green Movement, Iran’s peaceful democratic opposition movement.[5]

Iran’s Opposition Green Movement Rejects the MEK

  • The leaders of the Green Movement, Iran’s true popular opposition movement, have denounced the MEK and warned that the Iranian government seeks to discredit Iran’s opposition by associating it with the MEK:
  • “The Iranian Government is trying to connect those who truly love their country (the Greens) with the MEK to revive this hypocritical dead organization.” – Mehdi Karroubi, Green Movement leader. [6]
  • “The MEK can’t be part of the Green Movement. This bankrupt political group is now making some laughable claims, but the Green Movement and the MEK have a wall between them and all of us, including myself, Mr. Mousavi, Mr. Khatami, and Mr. Karroubi.” – Zahra Rahnavard, Women’s rights activist and wife of Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi[7]

Iraqi National Congress Redux?

  • The MEK claims it is “the main opposition in Iran,” yet similar to Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress that helped bring the United States into war with Iraq, the MEK is an exiled organization that has no popular support within Iran. [8]
  • RAND reports that the MEK are “skilled manipulators of public opinion.” The MEK has a global support network with active lobbying and propaganda efforts in major Western capitals. [9]
  • Members of Congress have been deceived and misinformed into supporting this terrorist  organization:
  • In 2002, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen led efforts for the U.S. to support the group, prompting then-Chairman and the Ranking Member of the House International Affairs Committee, Henry Hyde and Tom Lantos, to send a Dear Colleague warning against supporting the MEK.  They cautioned that many Members had been “embarrassed when confronted with accurate information about the MEK.” [10]
  • In the current Congress, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) have each introduced resolutions calling for MEK to be removed from the Foreign Terrorist Organization list.

A Capacity and Will to Commit Terrorist Acts in the U.S. & Beyond

  • The Bush administration determined in 2007 that “MEK leadership and members across the world maintain the capacity and will to commit terrorist acts in Europe, the Middle East, the United States, Canada, and beyond.” [11]
  • The Canadian and Australian governments have also designated the MEK as a terrorist organization. The Canadian government just reaffirmed its designation in December. [12] [13]
  • An EU court removed the MEK from its list of terrorist organizations, but only due to procedural reasons.  According to a spokesperson for the Council of the European Union, the EU court “did not enter into the question of defining or not the PMOI [MEK] as a terrorist organization.” [14]

Saddam Hussein’s Terrorist Militia

  • The MEK received all of its military assistance and most of its financial support from Saddam Hussein, including funds illegally siphoned from the UN Oil-for-Food Program, until 2003. [15]
  • The MEK helped execute Saddam’s bloody crackdown on Iraqi Shia and Kurds. Maryam Rajavi, the MEK’s permanent leader, instructed her followers to “take the Kurds under your tanks.” [16]

A Cult That Abuses Its Own Members

  • Human Rights Watch reports that MEK commits extensive human rights abuses against its own members at Camp Ashraf, including “torture that in two cases led to death.” [17]
  • A RAND report commissioned by DOD found that the MEK is a cult that utilizes practices such as mandatory divorce, celibacy, authoritarian control, forced labor, sleep deprivation, physical abuse, confiscation of assets, emotional isolation, and the imprisonment of dissident members. [18]
  • RAND concluded that up to 70% of the MEK members at their Camp Ashraf headquarters were likely recruited through deception and are kept there against their will. [19]
  • The FBI reports that the MEK’s “NLA [National Liberation Army] fighters are separated from their children who are sent to Europe and brought up by the MEK’s Support Network. […] These children are then returned to the NLA to be used as fighters upon coming of age.  Interviews also revealed that some of these children were told that their parents would be harmed if the children did not cooperate with the MEK. ”[20]

A History of Anti-Americanism

  • One of the founding ideologies of the MEK is anti-Americanism—the MEK is responsible for murdering American businessmen, military personnel, and even a senior American diplomat. [21]
  • The MEK strongly supported the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, vigorously opposed their eventual release, and chastised the government for not executing the hostages. [22]

The MEK was Not “Added” to the FTO List as a Goodwill Gesture to Iran

Delisting MEK: Disastrous Repercussions

The MEK is opposed by the Iranian people due to its history of terrorist attacks against civilians in Iran and its close alliance with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war.

  1. The greatest beneficiaries of delisting MEK would be Ahmadinejad and Iranian hardliners who seek to link the U.S. and the Green Movement to MEK.
  2. U.S. support for MEK would be used as a propaganda tool by hardliners to delegitimize and destroy Iran’s true democracy movement.
  3. American credibility among the Iranian people would be ruined if the U.S. supported this group.

Full citations below the fold:

  • 11 January 2011
  • Posted By Todd Ruffner
  • 3 Comments
  • Congress, Events in Iran, Sanctions

Humanitarian Tragedy in Iran Yet Another Wakeup Call

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6mbkCLGbZg]

This past weekend an Iranian Boeing 727 crashed in northwestern Iran while attempting an emergency landing, taking at least 77 lives.

Headlines regarding fatal plane crashes in Iran have become all too common in recent years, and the increasing number of innocent people killed in these incidents draws attention to the worst effects of US sanctions against Iran.

Thanks in large part to the US embargo on Iran, Iran is unable to maintain their aging commercial airliners, most of which have been operating since before the Islamic Revolution in 1979.  Since then, Iran has relied on spare parts garnered from international smuggling, the cannibalization of their own aircraft, and risky reverse engineering to piece together functional planes.

The White House has the authority to waive the embargo on civilian aircraft parts on humanitarian grounds on a case-by-case basis, though it almost never does so. (The last such instance was a Sept. 2006 decision to allow the export of several Airbus engine spare parts by the Bush administration.) This contradicts the principles of the Chicago Convention, to which both the United States and Iran are signatories, which requires that states “meet the needs of the peoples of the world for safe, regular, efficient and economical air transport”.

However, even the possibility of complying with the Chicago Convention and allowing the export of civilian aircraft parts to ensure safety of flight is too much for some Iran hawks in Congress to countenance.  As NIAC first reported, legislation introduced by Rep. Sherman (D-CA) last Congress would eliminate the President’s authority to license civilian aircraft parts. Sherman has previously expressed his desire to make US sanctions “hurt the Iranian people,” so his disregard for the consequences of this measure is clear, but he apparently does not realize that cutting off all accessibility to aircraft parts also endangers the lives the thousands of his Iranian-American constituents that visit Iran every year.

Rep. Sherman is now looking to reintroduce his legislation, though he’s looking for a Republican to act as the lead sponsor to improve the bill’s chances of being passed in the hyper-partisan House of Representatives.  Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced a companion to Sherman’s bill in the Senate but, perhaps in response to the opposition by NIAC and Iranian-American community, he had the good sense to strip the provisions that would put all passengers of Iranian civilian aircraft at even greater risk.

Before he reintroduces his bill, let’s hope that Congressman Sherman takes the opportunity to reconsider whether putting civilian aircraft passengers in Iran in even further danger is a good idea.

Rep. Sherman Wants to Help Ahmadinejad Punish Innocent Iranians

Iran’s rulers hardly need assistance to make the lives of Iranians miserable. Iranians are suffering mightily under their government’s flagrant human rights abuses, political repression, and economic mismanagement but, writing in the Hill last week, Representative Brad Sherman argued that punishing the Iranian people is exactly what the US should do.

“Critics [of the sanctions] argued that these measures will hurt the Iranian people,” Sherman writes. “Quite frankly, we need to do just that.”

That Rep. Sherman so blithely asserts we must punish Iranians (a philosophy that has previously been offered by Republicans Mark Kirk and Dana Rohrabacher) underlies the futility and confusion in Congress’ sanctions addiction and it may explain why the Iranian pro-democracy activists are distancing themselves from the US. A foreign government that seeks to punish your innocent population is not what one would want to have on one’s side.

Mehdi Karoubi, a top figure in the Green Movement, explained in a recent interview with the Guardian that the sanctions are a gift to Ahmadinejad.

“These sanctions have given an excuse to the Iranian government to suppress the opposition by blaming them for the unstable situation of the country,” Karoubi told the paper. “Look at Cuba and North Korea. Have sanctions brought democracy to their people? They have just made them more isolated and given them the opportunity to crack down on their opposition without bothering themselves about the international attention.”

Sherman pays little regard to such warnings, along with the long history of failed sanctions regimes against Cuba, Iraq, and even Iran. Instead, he (and many other Members of Congress) points to South Africa.

The South Africa sanctions were not “targeted”, Sherman says, but instead punished the entire economy and hurt “the very people we wanted to help.” “Ultimately,” Sherman explains, “Nelson Mandela thanked us for the sanctions.”

But Sherman is wrong. Nelson Mandela did not “ultimately” thank us—he and his supporters had been calling for sanctions for years in the face of opposition from Washington. It wasn’t until 1986, towards the very end of the struggle against apartheid, that Congress imposed sanctions on the apartheid government over President Reagan’s veto.

And in the South African case, the South African opposition supported sanctions.

But for Iran, the opposite is true. The leaders of Iran’s democratic opposition have unequivocally condemned sanctions as destructive to their movement and harmful to the most vulnerable Iranians.

But nobody is listening— lawmakers like Brad Sherman apparently know better than the Iranians on the front lines of the democratic struggle what is best for their movement.

Sherman neglects the Green Movement protests that were based not on economic grievances, but on the demands of Iranians for democracy and human rights. Delusions that sanctions can provide the pretext for a population to successfully demand democratic reforms fails to account for governments like Iran’s which have demonstrated themselves to be unresponsive to their populations and adept at exploiting sanctions to strengthen their grip on power. Iranians are still struggling for democracy and human rights, but the sanctions only impede that struggle.

There are other significant differences between the South Africa sanctions and the measures recently put into place against Iran. For South Africa, the US included scholarships for black students and support for human rights NGOs.

For Iran, US NGOs face so many obstacles imposed by US sanctions, not to mention obstacles posed by Tehran, that very few actually work there. And the first victims of the new sanctions were young Iranians—the vanguards of the democracy movement—hoping to study in the US who were denied the opportunity to take TOEFL tests.

Iran’s repressive rulers may not need help in punishing their own population. But if Brad Sherman is so intent on adding to the Iranian people’s suffering, I suspect that the Ahmadinejad government will be more than happy to accept his offer and will gladly give Washington more than its fair share of credit.

This post was originally published on the Hill’s Congress Blog

Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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