Archive for the ‘Iran – sanctions’ category

Iran Plotting With U.S. Allies to Skirt Trump’s New Sanctions

May 29, 2018

Global showdown looming as Trump administration cracks down on Tehran

BY: Adam Kredo May 29, 2018 1:55 pm via Free Beacon

Source Link:
Iran Plotting With U.S. Allies to Skirt Trump’s New Sanctions

{The world has changed…for the worse. – LS}

Iranian officials are plotting with U.S. allies across the globe to develop a series a measures meant to counter new sanctions by the Trump administration following its abandonment of the landmark nuclear deal, setting up a global economic showdown between America and its allies over their future business dealings with the Islamic Republic.

Iranian leaders disclosed on Tuesday that they had recently held high-level meetings with European Union nations and leaders in India and Thailand to explore options for skirting new U.S. sanctions.

Iran’s efforts and the warm reception it is receiving from many nations has roiled leaders on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers are already moving to confront these countries and ensure they face harsh repercussions for any breach of U.S. sanction law.

The State Department also is scrambling to respond to Iran’s efforts by building a counter-coalition aimed at isolating Tehran and any nation that works with Iran to skirt new U.S. sanctions, U.S. officials told the Washington Free Beacon.

Iranian Government Spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht disclosed on Tuesday that the nation’s top leaders, including Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, have met with European leaders and others in the region to discuss skirting new U.S. sanctions, which have targeted virtually every portion of Iran’s economy, including its contested nuclear and energy sectors.

Zarif recently concluded a trip to India and Thailand, where he is reported to have made much progress in convincing these nations to help Tehran “bypass” the new U.S. sanctions, which were fully reimposed by the Trump administration after its decision to walk away from the nuclear agreement.

“In addition to the E.U., we are improving relations with other countries, especially the neighbors,” Nobakht was quoted as saying on Tuesday in Iran’s state-controlled press.

Meetings with leaders in India are said to have gone particularly well for Iran, sparking outrage in the United States where these same Indian leaders have been pleading with the Trump administration to boost relations.

India and China have already vowed to continue purchasing Iranian crude oil, despite the Trump administration’s crackdown.

“A major part of the oil is sold to India and China,” Nobakht said. “We are also in talks with Europe to continue oil sales to them, and Iran’s increased oil sales to them has even been under discussion with them to compensate any drop if some states decrease oil imports.”

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, in remarks following meetings with top Iranian leaders, vowed to ignore U.S. sanctions.

“India follows only [United Nations] sanctions and not unilateral sanctions by any country,” Swaraj was quoted as saying, emphasizing that India remains “independent” and immune to “pressure.”

A U.S. State Department official, speaking only on background, told the Free Beacon that under newly installed Secretary of State Pompeo’s leadership, American diplomats are already developing relationships aimed at ensuring U.S. sanctions on Iran have a maximum impact.

“We are hard at work in our efforts to build our new effort to counter the totality of Iran’s malign activity with our friends around the world. Secretary Pompeo speaks frequently with his counterparts from the UK, France, and Germany as well as our allies in the Middle East and Asia,” the official said.

Teams of U.S. diplomats are being sent across the globe to galvanize support for the new U.S. sanctions, the official said.

“We will be sending out teams of diplomats and specialists to talk about specific concerns with the plan for re-imposition of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions and next steps with Iran,” the official said. “We are fully engaged at all levels.”

On Capitol Hill, opponents of the nuclear accord are working on parallel efforts to ensure that any foreign nation caught skirting new U.S. sanctions on Iran faces harsh repercussions, including massive economic penalties and a possible cutoff from the U.S. financial system.

“India is going out of its way to alienate members of Congress, including many who have been sympathetic and trying to help them,” said one senior congressional official who works on the issue and has discussed the matter with the administration.

“They’re almost certainly violating the sanctions against Russia that overwhelmingly passed Congress last summer,” said the source, who would only speak on background about these efforts. “Now they’re bragging about violating Iran sanctions too. They keep telling us they want a new relationship with America but then they act in these destructive ways. It’s very troubling.”

European Companies Flee Iran to Avoid US Sanctions

May 23, 2018

“Washington has threatened to hold anyone doing prohibited business in Iran to account.” Germany’s state-run DW News confirms

Posted by Vijeta Uniyal Tuesday, May 22, 2018 Legal Insurrection

Source Link: European Companies Flee Iran to Avoid US Sanctions

{Money talks,  political bullshit walks. – LS}

European companies are leaving the Islamic Republic of Iran in droves fearing U.S. sanctions after President Donald Trump’s decided to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal earlier this month. The regime in Tehran is “particularly concerned by the decisions of various European companies to halt their Iranian operations until the future of sanctions was clear,” several German newspapers reported on Monday.

“The cascade of decisions by EU companies to end their activities in Iran makes things much more complicated,” Iranian Foreign Minister said. The statement comes days after the French oil company Total pulled out $5 billion worth of investments from the country fearing U.S. sanctions.

The EU, backed by the governments of France and Germany, has been scrambling to save the European business interests in Iran. German and French companies had made huge investments in Iranian oil and industrial sectors since the nuclear deal eased sanction on the regime three years ago.

The EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the bloc’s executive arm, proposed enacting laws to allow European companies to ignore the U.S. sanctions. This so-called ‘blocking statute’ could protect European firms from prosecution by the U.S. Treasury and other agencies.

The Trump administration has made its intentions clear to go after any foreign player found guilty of sanctions-busting in Iran. “US withdrawal and new raft of sanctions will hurt a number of European firms with connections to Iran. Washington has threatened to hold anyone doing prohibited business in Iran to account.” Germany’s state-run DW News confirmed.

German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif’s comments that were made at a meeting with a senior EU official in Tehran:

Iran has called for EU’s support in saving the nuclear deal–primarily through more European investments.

Europe declares its political commitment to the deal, but large European companies want to pull out of the country, complained the Iranian Foreign Minister.

Iran doesn’t consider the political support from the European Union to be sufficient to save the nuclear deal. Country’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif made that clear during his meeting with the EU Commissioner for Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete. The EU needs to undertake practical measures “in order to increase investments in Iran,” Zarif said–as reported by Iran’s state-run news agency. The EU commitment to the nuclear deal is not in tune with the calls made by big European companies to leave Iran.

Several foreign companies have suspended their operations in Iran while they wait for the outcome of the talks within the EU. Last week, the French oil company Total announced its decision to end an investment project worth $4.8 billion if the company fails to get an approval from Washington. [Translation by the author]

The exodus of European investments from Iran is a diplomatic win for the Trump administration that has been urging the Western companies to end operations in Iran.

Earlier this month, National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that “it’s possible” for the European companies to face sanctions if they continued doing business with Tehran. The U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell called upon the German firms to stop trading with Iran. “US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately,” Ambassador Grenell said.

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a list of demands to Tehran: calling on the regime to immediately cease its nuclear program, end military activity throughout the Middle East and release all U.S. nationals held on spurious charges. He threatened “strongest sanctions in history” if Iran fails to comply.

The reaction from Tehran shows that European investors aren’t buying the assurances being given by the EU commissars. Many of the French and German companies fleeing Iran have profitable operations in the U.S. and don’t want to jeopardize their business relations across the Atlantic just to make a quick buck in Iran. With President Trump and the members of his administration acting in unison on the issue of Iran, European companies–unlike the EU officials–seem to have grasped the firmness of the U.S. resolve.

Commander says Iran’s people will punch U.S. Secretary of State in the mouth

May 22, 2018

Source Link: Commander says Iran’s people will punch U.S. Secretary of State in the mouth

Reuter’s Staff May 22, 2018

{Take your best shot, Bubba. – LS}

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A senior Iranian military commander poured scorn on U.S. threats to tighten sanctions on Tuesday, saying the Islamic Republic’s people would respond by punching U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the mouth.

Pompeo said on Monday Washington would impose new penalties if Tehran did not make sweeping changes, including dropping its nuclear program and pulling out of the Syrian civil war.

Two weeks after President Donald Trump pulled out of an international nuclear deal with Iran, his administration has threatened to impose “the strongest sanctions in history,” setting Washington and Tehran further on a course of confrontation.

“The people of Iran should stand united in the face of this and they will deliver a strong punch to the mouth of the American Secretary of State and anyone who backs them,” Ismail Kowsari, the deputy commander of the Sarollah Revolutionary Guards base in Tehran said, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency.

Limiting Iran’s missile capabilities was one of Pompeo’s main demands.

“Who are you and America to tell us to limit the range of ballistic missiles?” Kowsari said, according to ILNA. “History has shown that with the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, America is the top criminal with regard to missiles,” he added.

Qassem Soleimani, the head of the branch of the Revolutionary Guards that carries out operations outside Iran’s borders, was singled out by Pompeo as a top troublemaker in the Middle East.

Kowsari said that the Iranian people back Soleimani.

“Soleimani is not a single person. The great people of Iran support him,” Kowsari said.

Separately, Iran’s government spokesman said that the plan outlined by Pompeo would exacerbate the public’s hostility to the United States.

“Do the Americans think that the silk glove that they’ve taken out and the iron hand that they’ve extended to the people, a hand that’s backed by Israel and the [Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization], will make Iranian people think that America wants democracy?” Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said on Tuesday, according to state media.

The Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) is an exiled Iranian armed opposition group which has called for the overthrow of the Iranian government for decades.

John Bolton, the U.S. national security advisor, has been a supporter of the MKO, which the Iranian government sees as a terrorist group.

 

Pompeo to Iran: Get ready for “strongest sanctions in history”

May 21, 2018

Ed Morrissey May 21, 2018 Hot Air

Source Link: Pompeo to Iran: Get ready for strongest sanctions in history

{I suggest the Mullahs pay attention. – LS}

Mike Pompeo offered both a clenched fist and an open hand to Iran in his first major policy speech. At the Heritage Foundation this morning, the new Secretary of State pledged never to “repeat the mistakes of past administrations” and rejected entirely the effort to “renegotiate the JCPOA,” the executive agreement created by the Obama administration. Instead, Pompeo offered to open full diplomatic and economic ties with Tehran, but only if they comply with twelve “basic requirements” for non-proliferation and the end of state-sponsored terrorism:

Otherwise, Iran will face a much tougher sanctions regime — and presumably, so would anyone else doing business with them:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is threatening to place “the strongest sanctions in history” on Iran if its government doesn’t change course.

Pompeo on Monday called for a new nuclear agreement with Iran following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal. He says the Trump administration prefers for it to be a treaty that is ratified by Congress.

Pompeo is laying out an onerous list of 12 “basic requirements” demands on Iran that he says should be included. He says Iran must “stop enrichment” of uranium and never preprocess plutonium. Iran must also allow nuclear “unqualified access to all sites throughout the country.”

Pompeo says Iran must also “release all U.S. citizens,” end support for Houthi rebels in Yemen, “withdraw all forces” from Syria and stop threatening Israel.

Iran’s not likely to agree to any of this, of course, especially about Israel. The mullahcracy in Tehran has its mission to destroy Israel and to spread its Shi’a Islam to dominate the region. Its ultimate goal is control over Mecca and Medina, which makes Saudi Arabia a higher priority than even Israel or propping up Bashar al-Assad in Syria, at least for Assad’s sake. Their encirclement strategy around Riyadh is too important to worry about diplomatic and economic engagement with “the Great Satan,” even if it was nice for a while not to have economic obstruction from the US.

The real target for this speech wasn’t Tehran, though. It was the capitals of Europe, especially Berlin, Paris, and London. Pompeo intended to lay out the case that the Obama administration and the P5+1 group essentially funded Iran’s aggression in the region over the last few years with the execrable JCPOA, and that they are responsible now for cutting off that flow of funds in order to slow Tehran’s encirclement strategy:

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, is expected to call on European countries to help ramp up economic pressure on Iran as he outlines America’s ‘Plan B’ to the nuclear deal.

Delivering his first major foreign policy speech since taking the job, Mr Pompeo will double down on the United States’ decision to quit the agreement earlier this month.

He is expected to frame the 2015 deal as allowing Iran to increase its malign influence across the Middle East on the back of funding from renewed trade with the West.

Mr Pompeo is also expected to urge other nations to join America in reimposing economic sanctions on the regime in a bid to bring it back to the negotiating table.

Pompeo wants to underscore just how serious the Trump administration is about putting the shackles back on the Iranian regime. The existing, re-imposed sanctions will already put European businesses at risk for sustaining major economic damage if they continue to work with Iran. Pompeo made it clear in his speech today that the US does not intend to find ways to avoid that damage. The “strongest sanctions in history” only work as long as the US enforces them strongly enough to make them work as deterrents. The best way for Europe to avoid getting hurt in that exchange is to join up with the US in imposing them.

This won’t prompt any immediate change from either Iran or our allies. It’s a marker laid down by Pompeo and Donald Trump, not yet an action in itself. Our allies will try to work Pompeo and Trump to mitigate those consequences, and perhaps Trump will be willing to negotiate around the edges. But Pompeo’s making it clear that the US plans to take a very hard line on Iran, and not just in nuclear-weapons proliferation.

 

Turkish Banker Sentenced to Prison for Helping Iran Evade U.S. Sanctions

May 17, 2018


In this courtroom sketch Mehmet Hakan Atilla, second from left, listens to the judge during his sentencing, flanked by his attorneys Cathy Fleming, left, and Victor Rocco as Atilla’s wife, upper right, listens to the proceedings Wednesday, May 16, 2018, in New York. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman imposed a sentence of 32 months in prison on the Turkish banker convicted of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)

OAN Newsroom Thurs. May 17, 2018 One America News Network

Source Link: Turkish Banker Sentenced to Prison for Helping Iran Evade U.S. Sanctions

{Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. – LS}

A Turkish banker is sentenced to 32-months in prison for helping to execute one of the largest sanction evasion cases ever prosecuted in the U.S.

A New York-based federal court announced the decision against Mehmet Hakan Atilla on Wednesday, just months after he was convicted of bank fraud and conspiracy in January.

A judge is granting Atilla time served for the 14-months he already spent behind bars following his arrest in 2017 during a trip to the U.S. This means the 47-year-old could return to Turkey in little more than a year.

The sentence comes as a disappointment to prosecutors, who recommended Atilla serve at least 20-years for jeopardizing U.S. national security.

They say he abused his top position at a state-owned Turkish bank a decade ago to help Iran circumvent U.S. sanctions and access frozen assets.

The move helped to pour billions of dollars of Iranian oil profits into the world market, creating a slush fund for the country to use.

Eight other Turkish and Iranian defendants were indicted along with Atilla for their alleged roles in the evasion.

One of the men — prominent gold trader Reza Zarrab — shocked the world by pleading guilty and helping the U.S. to unravel the scheme.

The judge ruled Atilla was more of a minor player in the overall plan, and not the mastermind prosecutors tried to paint him out to be.

The decision came in part after more than 100 letters from Atilla’s friends, family and colleagues were read by the courts attesting to his character as a family man.

Turkish President Tayyib Erdogan has weighed in on the case, blasting it as a slight towards the whole country.

The legal proceedings have caused further division between the U.S. and its NATO ally Turkey. Lawyers for Atilla say he plans to appeal the ruling.

Iranian president to Trump: Stay in nuke deal or face ‘severe consequences’

April 24, 2018


“If anyone betrays the deal, they should know that they would face severe consequences,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday. “Iran is prepared for all possible situations.” | Iranian Presidency Office via AP

By LOUIS NELSON 04/24/2018 07:14 AM EDT Politico

Source Link: Iranian president to Trump: Stay in nuke deal or face ‘severe consequences’

{Here we go again. More threats from Iran. You’d think they were speaking from a position of strength but their economy is failing, their people are suffering, and their currency is being devalued daily. Any more resistance by the Mullahs will result in tighter sanctions and an eventual collapse. With Trump, economic power backed up by the world’s largest military is a huge bargaining chip. I wouldn’t want to call his bluff if I were them. He just might not be bluffing as many others have found out. – LS}

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned Tuesday of “severe consequences” for the U.S. should it withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, a step President Donald Trump has indicated he will take if certain changes to the agreement are not made.

“I am telling those in the White House that if they do not live up to their commitments … the Iranian government will firmly react,” Rouhani said in a speech, according to a Reuters report.

The Iranian president’s warning coincides with the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Washington, where he is expected to urge Trump to keep the U.S. in the deal, which was negotiated under former President Barack Obama and agreed to by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany and Iran.

Complaints about the Iran deal were among Trump’s most frequent talking points on the 2016 campaign trail, including a pledge to pull the U.S. from it. The president has yet to follow through on that promise, opting instead to continue extending the deal while demanding that it be altered to address other behavior by the Iranian government, including its funding of groups deemed by the U.S. to be terrorist organizations, that currently falls outside the scope of the nuclear deal.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter that his nation’s compliance with the deal was “either all or nothing,” indicating that Iran would not remain party to the deal if the U.S. withdraws, even if the other nations do not. Rouhani, delivering a speech in the city of Tabriz, said Iran is prepared for whatever move Trump makes.

“If anyone betrays the deal, they should know that they would face severe consequences,” the Iranian president said. “Iran is prepared for all possible situations.”

 

Iranians hit by ‘perfect currency storm’

April 23, 2018

By Frud Bezhan and Niusha Boghrati, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Via World Tribune April 22, 2018

Source Link: Iranians hit by ‘perfect currency storm’

{Did not know there were so many millionaires in Iran. For a little less than $20 US, you can be a millionaire too…in rials. – LS}

Iranian travelers stand in front of a currency exchange in Tehran, hoping to exchange money on April 11.

Every day, hundreds head to Tehran’s bustling Ferdowsi street to buy foreign currency, only to find that many exchange offices have shut up shop, have turned off their currency-rate displays, or have signs up reading, “We don’t have U.S. dollars to sell.”


Iranian travelers stand in front of a currency exchange in Teheran on April 11. / MEHR

A nationwide dollar-buying panic is in full swing, spurred by the plunging value of the Iranian rial, a sluggish economy, and fears that the United States will reimpose crippling sanctions on the Islamic republic.

With the rial hitting all-time lows, the government has imposed an official exchange rate of 42,000 rials against the dollar, set a cap on the amount of foreign currency that citizens can hold outside banks, and sent police to patrol exchange shops to ensure that no under-the-table currency trading is going on.

But economists say the new currency measures will be difficult to maintain. Exchangers are hoarding U.S. dollars, and Iranians who require foreign hard currency for business or travel are already defying the government and turning to the black market, where the rate has skyrocketed.

“A few days ago, I went to several exchange offices to buy $300,” a Tehran businessman who did not want to reveal his name told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda. “But I couldn’t even purchase $100. So I was forced to buy several hundred dollars on the black market. I paid 58,000 rials for $1.”

The businessman said exchange offices had U.S. dollars to sell, but would not do so for the government’s set rate of 42,000 rials. Instead, he said, exchangers were still selling dollars for free-market exchange rates, despite Tehran’s warning that those caught trading foreign currency outside official rates would face arrest.

“The currency crisis has made us poor,” he said. “But I have an import business so I need to buy American dollars otherwise I can’t continue my work.”

‘We Weren’t Prepared For This’

The new measures are affecting Iranians who study, travel, or do business abroad, as well as those who keep their savings in dollars.

“My family sent my brother to study overseas,” a young Iranian man told Radio Farda on condition of anonymity. “The day he left, the [free-market] exchange rate was 35,000 rials to every dollar. Now, unfortunately, the dollar has reached 60,000 rials.”

“Now, we can’t afford to send him money anymore,” the young man said, adding that “we weren’t prepared for this.”

Police patrol exchange shops to ensure that no under-the-table currency trading is going on.

President Hassan Rohani, who was elected to a second term in 2017 on pledges to boost jobs and the recession-hit economy, has been under fire. In January, grievances against the government spilled over into antigovernment protests across Iran. The demonstrations were crushed, leaving at least 25 people dead.

“One of the reasons I voted for Rohani was because I thought he would improve the economy,” the young man said. “But in the last few months we have seen, unfortunately, that the administration doesn’t have the necessary policies or ability to improve the economy.”

‘Perfect Currency Storm’

Iran’s currency has lost close to half its value on the free market since September, when the dollar was at 36,000 rials. The currency hit a record low of 60,000 on the free market last week.

Steve Hanke, an economist teaching at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, says economic mismanagement and residual international sanctions on Iran have worked to “create a perfect currency storm.”

Iran has been unable to reap the full benefits of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers — under which Tehran curbed its contentious nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

This is partly due to resistance among Iran’s hard-line conservative camp to opening up the state-controlled economy, residual U.S. sanctions linked to Iran’s human rights record and ballistic-missile program, and European companies’ continued wariness of investing in Iran because of fears of U.S. penalties. Economists say this has severely affected Iran’s access to trading relationships, finance, and foreign investment.

Valiollah Seif, the current governor of the Central Bank of Iran, has blamed “enemies” and “traces of plotting.”

The spiraling currency has also been driven by fears of a return of crippling sanctions if U.S. President Donald Trump carries out his threat to exit the nuclear deal with Tehran.

Iran has long had trouble managing its currency market. In 2012, the government tried to set an official, single, rate for the currency, but the attempt failed.

“The new currency system is bound to fail,” Hanke says. “Iranians will continue to flock to the black market for the safety of foreign currency. Also, no economy has ever been given life by devaluations.”

“The currency crisis will not stimulate exports and it will not stimulate domestic production either,” he adds. “The weak rial will be associated with higher interest rates and more inflation, however.”

‘Economic War’

Rohani’s government has deflected blame for the currency crisis on detractors at home and abroad. Government spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said on April 10 that Iran was in an “economic war, and enemies seek to create problems for our economy.”

The head of Iran’s central bank, Valiollah Seif, was met with angry objections and interruptions from lawmakers in parliament last week, with many demanding his resignation.

Seif blamed the plunging value of the rial on “lack of certainty” about the future and said that “enemies know the issue and try to use any opportunity” to create trouble for Iran. He also referred to “traces of plotting” by regional rivals, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, without elaborating.

Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri blamed “noneconomic, unjustified, and unpredictable factors” for the rial’s collapse, given that he said the country’s exports were performing strongly.

“There should not be such incidents in an economy that always has a surplus of foreign currency. Some say interference by foreign hands is disrupting the economic climate and some say domestic machinations are spurring these things in order to destabilize the climate in the country,” Jahangiri added.