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  • 2 July 2012
  • Posted By Jessica Schieder
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

Iran News Roundup: July 2, 2012

Iran Reacts to EU Embargo Implementation

Iran’s governor to OPEC, Mohammad Ali Khatibi, speaking of sanctions implemented on Sunday, warned “the EU would bear ‘the consequences of politicizing the market,’” (Bloomberg 7/1).  Iranian ambassador to the UN, Mohammad Khazaee, suggested the current sanctions regime “by itself indicates that they are not willing to engage with us in a meaningful dialogue,” (NYT 6/29).

Three Days of Iranian Missile Tests Begin

Iranian Revolutionary Guards General Amir Ali Hajizadeh has announced three days of missile tests starting on Monday, saying the exercises are “a message ‘that the Islamic Republic of Iran is resolute in standing up to … bullying, and will respond to any possible evil decisively and strongly’” (Reuters 7/1CNN 7/2). The war games will include target bases “made to look like airbases of ‘extra-regional powers’” and “long-range, medium-range, and short-range missiles”, (CNN 7/2).  Hajizadeh, who is head of the Revolutionary Guards airborne division added that “If [Israelis] take any action, they will hand us an excuse to wipe them off the face of the earth” (Reuters 7/1).

Bill Would Stop Oil Trade through Hormuz

Iran’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee has drafted a bill that would attempt to stop oil tankers from shipping crude through the Strait of Hormuz to countries that support sanctions against Iran. Iranian MP Ibrahim Agha-Mohammadi stated that as of Sunday, 100 of 290 members of the Iranian parliament had signed the measure (Reuters 7/2).

Iranian Domestic Markets Weaken

The imposition of the new measures threaten to “make the distortion in the economy even worse”, according to the New York Times, in a country where the national currency has lost 50 percent of its value in the last year and currency speculation has become a significant factor in the market(NYT 7/1). The dollar was trading at just over 18,500 Rials last Saturday, by Thursday it was above 20,000 for the first time since late January (Washington Post  6/29).

  • 8 February 2012
  • Posted By B.Farshneshani
  • 0 Comments
  • NIAC round-up

News Roundup 02/08

Iran Sanctions Squeeze Country’s Food Supply

Sanctions are beginning to seriously affect Iran’s ability to import food products.  The All India Rice Exporters’ Association has called on its members to stop exporting rice to Iran on credit after Iranian buyers defaulted on payments for 200,000 tons of rice (Chicago Tribune 02/07).  In addition, Ukraine has stopped selling grain to Iran due to payment difficulties, and Malaysia has similarly stopped providing palm oil (Reuters 02/08). 

Former Israeli Spymaster: Israel Does Not Face Existential Threat

Former director of Mossad, Meir Dagan, maintains that there is no existential threat to Israel, putting him at odds with the country’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, who he has accused of dashing toward a rash military strike on Iran (Washington Post 02/08).

  • 13 June 2011
  • Posted By Jamal Abdi
  • 2 Comments
  • Congress, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Sanctions

As Sanctions Ratchet Up, Iranian Americans Bear Increasing Burdens

With a new push for even more “crippling” Iran sanctions coming out of Congress, and renewed signs from the president that further sanctions may be in the offing, it is more important than ever for Americans, particularly Americans of Iranian descent, to evaluate the unintended impact these sanctions are having here in the U.S.

Yesterday, the civil rights organization Asian Law Caucus released its latest guide, The Impact of U.S. Sanctions Against Iran on You, which lays out some of the effects of sanctions on ordinary Iranian Americans and provides guidance for how to navigate the maze of new and existing restrictions.

Last year, when Iranian-American Mahmoud Reza Banki was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for facilitating remittances between families in the U.S. and Iran, shockwaves rippled through the Iranian-American community.

That’s because even under ramped up sanctions, Iranian Americans are still legally permitted to send family remittances to loved ones in Iran. However, because banking sanctions have closed off most of the legal channels for such transactions, many turn to workarounds that may seem innocuous, but are often illegal.

The ALC effort is important in ensuring that Iranian Americans understand their rights and don’t end up unintentionally violating the law. But even with this understanding, many Iranian Americans have been unable to avoid the chilling effect caused by the increasing breadth of sanctions.

Banks have frozen the accounts of Iranian Americans who simply checked their bank balance online from Iran. In at least one case, a bank closed an account when it determined its customer was a “resident” of Iran because she had been thrown in jail on frivolous espionage charges.

Website owners have found that certain web hosts refuse to allow Iranian IP addresses to access their sites. Iranian Americans who formerly worked and retired in Iran report that they are now unable to receive their pensions here in the U.S. due to banking restrictions. Charity and relief organizations have been shocked when, despite going through the long and arduous process of obtaining a U.S. license to work on humanitarian projects in Iran, they are suddenly and wrongly dropped by their financial institution. And researchers have been unable to conduct studies or obtain grants related to Iran because of concerns about sanctions.

None of these activities are illegal, but the broad, untargeted nature of Iran sanctions have convinced companies and banks that facilitating such activities is simply not worth the risk.

Even with these difficulties, many, if not most, Iranian Americans would be happy to make these sacrifices if doing so held the promise of helping improve the situation in Iran. But the results we have seen from broad sanctions have consistently been the opposite. Economic sanctions regarding Iran’s nuclear program have not stopped or even stemmed the human rights abuses in Iran. They have failed to change the Iranian government’s behavior for over three decades and have hurt, not helped, the Iranian people.

For instance, restrictions on aircraft parts and repairs have helped leave Iran’s civilian aircraft fleet in disrepair, resulting in at least fifteen Iranian plane crashes in the past decade.

We also now know that, in June 2009, as Iranians took to the streets to demand accountability from their government in the face of brutal repression, U.S. sanctions were preventing Iranians from accessing even the most basic communication software and hardware.

Fast forward two years and many of these sanctions remain in place, new ones have been ratcheted up, and even more may be on the way. Meanwhile, Tehran continues to put thirty years of experience in leveraging the sanctions to use by enriching government officials and further consolidating their share of Iran’s economy by controlling the sale of sanctioned products.

Hopefully, efforts like those of the ALC to educate the Iranian-American community can help ensure that innocent people do not unknowingly get swept into the wake of the broad sanctions or have their rights violated.

But going forward, we will need to continue to press policymakers to pay more attention to the unintended consequences of these sanctions.

With Congress considering oil embargo measures that will make Iran policy look even more like the policies carried out on Iraq — which failed to depose Saddam, resulted in humanitarian disaster, and ultimately ended in war — elected officials must hear this message.

It is critical that Americans, and especially Iranian Americans, take action to oppose sanctions that invite dangerous outcomes for the U.S. and the Iranian people, and fail to discriminate between Iran’s government, the Iranian people, and Iranian Americans.

  • 6 June 2011
  • Posted By David Shams
  • 0 Comments
  • Congress, Neo-Con Agenda, Sanctions, US-Iran War

A “stealth” Iraq rerun

This past Thursday, the Atlantic Council’s Iran Task Force released its newest briefing regarding sanctions on Iran, authored by Barbara Slavin.

Slavin writes:

Piling on yet more stringent and comprehensive penalties — seeking to embargo Iranian oil exports, for example — risks undermining the significant international cooperation the Obama administration have achieved without giving adequate time for the sanctions already imposed to work.

Unfortunately, these are the very measures that are now being proposed in Congress

The new bills being discussed in Congress would effectively impose an oil embargo on Iran and implement new restrictions to leave President Obama little room to work with allies in Europe and Asia.

Ali Gharib at Think Progress spoke with Slavin after the sanctions briefing and asked her about some of these proposals being discussed.  She explained:

What they want is a stealth embargo. And they want it to be slow and quiet so it doesn’t cause shocks to the market, but that’s what they want.

If it starts to look like a total embargo, they will lose support. It starts to look like Iraq.

That’s the very thing that makes me worried.  The humanitarian toll of sanctions against Iraq throughout the 90’s was disastrous.  We shouldn’t be seeking the same thing for Iran.

To that end, last week, thirteen organizations (including NIAC) sent a letter to Capitol Hill calling for Members of the House and Senate to oppose or demand significant changes to the proposed legislation.

NIAC is also leading a grassroots letter writing campaign to tell Congress to oppose the new sanctions.  The letter (which you can send to your elected officials here) states:

I am deeply concerned that Congress is intent on repeating the mistakes that dragged an isolated U.S. into war with Iraq, where an oil embargo and sanctions had already contributed to the deaths of half a million children while failing to change the Iraqi government’s behavior.

It’s a shame that so many policymakers apparently do not see the similarities.

But perhaps that’s because of the way the Iran threat is being sold.  As Seymour Hersh, whose recent New Yorker piece  revealed the continued lack of evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapon program, told Democracy Now last week, “you know, you could argue it’s 2003 all over again.  Remember WMD, mushroom clouds. There’s just no serious evidence inside that Iran is actually doing anything to make a nuclear weapon.”

We are all fully aware how that turned out.  And yet Congress seems intent to continue back down the same path.

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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