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Ed Webb

The Deportation of Omar Shakir: The Israeli Supreme Court and the BDS Movement - Lawfare - 0 views

  • Two judgments handed down just days apart—one by the Israeli Supreme Court and the other by the European Court of Justice—highlight a growing jurisprudential divide between Israeli and international courts on the status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank
  • On Nov. 12, the European Court of Justice ruled that Israeli food products from the West Bank and Golan Heights must be explicitly labeled as coming from “Israeli settlements,” rather than from Israel itself. The ruling, which cited European Union regulations designed to allow consumers to make informed choices about their food purchases, held that since international humanitarian law limits Israeli jurisdiction in these territories to that of an “occupying power,” it would be misleading to represent such products as being “from Israel.”
  • stakes of the long-anticipated Israeli Supreme Court judgment in Human Rights Watch v. Interior Minister, handed down just a week earlier. In its judgment, the court upheld a government decision to expel Human Rights Watch’s (HRW’s) Israel and Palestine director, Omar Shakir, from the country, based on a law barring entry by foreigners who promote boycotts of Israel or its West Bank settlements. The case marked the first time the court was called upon to rule on the law’s application to boycott-related activities directed primarily at the settlements, rather than at Israel itself.
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  • In 2015, in Avneri v. The Knesset, a divided court upheld most of the 2011 law, striking down a provision providing for punitive damages in civil tort cases and construing the law narrowly in order to limit liability to instances where there is a proven causal link to concrete damage. (For more on Avneri, see here and here.) Most significantly for our purposes, a majority of justices in Avneri upheld the law’s contentious provision (which applies equally to the 2017 amendment), equating settlement boycotts to boycotts against Israel as a whole.
  • A boycott directed at an individual company due to its specific behavior, by contrast (for example, because it engaged in discrimination or in some other problematic activity), would not risk running afoul of the law.
  • If actively promoting HRW’s stance on settlements is enough to demonstrate ongoing promotion of boycotts, any new employee could face similar consequences. Israeli employees of HRW, too, could face civil or administrative ramifications simply for implementing HRW’s stated policy of calling on businesses “to stop operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as part of their duty to avoid complicity in human rights abuses.”
  • Back in 2016, when HRW first requested a foreign expert visa for Shakir, an American citizen, the Foreign Ministry objected on the grounds that HRW itself was biased against Israel, “falsely waving the flag of human rights” in the service of “Palestinian propaganda.” Shortly thereafter, the ministry withdrew its objection, citing political and diplomatic considerations, and the Interior Ministry granted Shakir his visa. An administrative petition by the right-leaning organization Shurat HaDin, among others, led to an additional reversal, and the visa was revoked. The new decision was based on a memorandum issued by the Strategic Affairs Ministry (charged in Israel with heading up the fight against BDS), which argued that the problem was Shakir himself—who had called in the past for boycotts of Israel and the settlements—rather than HRW
  • The appellants, for their part, challenged the constitutionality of the 2017 amendment, arguing that even though foreigners don’t have a right to enter the country, they should not be denied a visa or fear deportation for expressing unpopular views. Mainly, they claimed, the law violates the free speech and equality rights of Israelis (and Palestinians), whose ability to engage freely with foreigners the government doesn’t agree with is limited by the law. They also argued that Shakir’s activities—particularly those undertaken on behalf of HRW—shouldn’t be considered boycott activities, since they were motivated by a desire to combat specific human rights violations and to encourage private corporations to respect their human rights obligations under international law
  • While once again acknowledging that the law doesn’t apply to boycotts targeting specific behaviors, the court stated: An individual who negates the very legitimacy of the State of Israel or its control of the Area, and seeks to undermine it through a boycott, is [included in the law], even if he disguises his position with the rhetoric of human rights or international law. The test is a substantive one, and the words the de-legitimization campaign wraps itself in do not grant it immunity.
  • Several amici from both sides of the political spectrum, including NGO Monitor, Shurat HaDin and Amnesty International, submitted briefs to the court. A group of former foreign service officials also joined the proceedings as amici, arguing that removing Shakir would cause substantial and lasting damage to Israel’s image as an open and democratic society.
  • In Human Rights Watch, the court clarified that what is at stake is also, potentially, the “delegitimization of Israel and of its policy” (emphasis added).
  • the boycott laws, coupled with the court’s continued acquiescence to the law’s conflation of Israel with Israeli settlements, threaten to impair the ability of citizens and noncitizens alike to engage in free discourse on one of the most difficult issues facing the country. They risk undermining the ability of human rights groups to defend human rights and promote respect for international law when their positions and interpretations of the law do not align with those of the Israeli government. They also threaten to further erode the all-important distinction in a democracy between delegitimization of the country itself and criticism of government policy
  • a growing disconnect between the discourse on settlements in Israel (and now, perhaps, the United States) and abroad
Ed Webb

EXCLUSIVE: Trump sent second letter to Erdogan threatening sanctions over S-400s | Midd... - 1 views

  • US President Donald Trump last week warned Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a letter that he would soon have to impose sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defence systems if Ankara did not accept his proposed terms
  • Trump also said that Turkey could be re-admitted into a partner programme for the US's next-generation F-35 fighter jet if it agreed not to activate the S-400 systems and committed to not purchasing Russian weapons systems in the future
  • the two NATO allies at odds over a range of issues including Ankara's incursion into northern Syria
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  • Trump's last correspondence with Erdogan, sent last month and threatening him with heavy sanctions over Turkey's operation in northern Syria, caused uproar at the time because of its informal style which was perceived as undiplomatic and "childish".
  • The White House, under pressure from the Congress, seems to have lost patience and really wants to put an end to the S-400 debacle, by either sanctioning Turkey, or using the threat of sanctions to force it to accept its terms,
  • Trump has publicly said multiple times that Turkey should purchase US-made Patriot missile systems to defend its territories. Erdogan told journalists last week that he was still interested in the Patriots.
  • administration is mandated to sanction countries that conduct transactions with the Russian military industry, according to a law ratified by the US Congress in 2017, called CAATSA, or Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act
  • The Pentagon suspended Turkey from F-35 programme in July, saying that the S-400s could be used to spy on the crucial technology of the jet.
  • Erdogan, replying by letter, told Trump that Turkey would not discuss the S-400 issue with pre-conditions. He reiterated his demand to form a joint committee to resolve the problem and continued to defend the argument that S-400s and F-35 could be compatible within Turkey's defence structure.
Ed Webb

Trump announces sanctions against Turkey - 0 views

  • The United States sanctioned Turkey's defense, energy, and interior ministers over Turkey's incursion into northern Syria, the Treasury Department announced today. 
  • Trump has touted taking down the territorial caliphate of the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS) in Syria as a signature foreign policy accomplishment, one which current and former officials say the Turkish incursion has put at risk.
  • the forthcoming order would increase steel tariffs against Turkey to 50% and stop negotiations toward a potential $100 billion trade deal with Ankara. Al-Monitor reported today that Erdogan was one official under consideration for sanctions.
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  • the president announced a pullout to the al-Tanf garrison on Syria’s southwestern border with Jordan and Iraq
  • While the president called for Turkey to protect civilians and religious and ethnic minorities amid the assault, in tweets sent today, Trump left that responsibility in the hands of the Syrian government that the US has repeatedly condemned for human rights violations and war crimes. “After defeating 100% of the ISIS Caliphate, I largely moved our troops out of Syria,” Trump wrote. “Let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land.”
  • experts said the Trump administration appeared to be losing control of the gains of the five-year fight against IS
  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement that he planned to press NATO countries to take "collective and individual diplomatic and economic measures" against Turkey at a meeting in Brussels next week
Ed Webb

Congress aims to keep spotlight on Saudi Arabia one year after Khashoggi murder - 0 views

  • “Sadly, we have an administration here in the United States that’s decided that a political and military relationship with Saudi Arabia trumps the murder of a legal resident, a member of the press who was simply doing his job,” Connolly said at a Capitol Hill event commemorating Khashoggi’s death last week. “We will not stop. It may make time, but we will get justice for Jamal Khashoggi and we will insist on accountability from the Saudi government no matter how high up it goes.”
  • While previous legislation to restrict Saudi arms sales have centered on Riyadh’s role in Yemen’s civil war, Connolly’s bill is the first to curb weapons transfers over the Khashoggi murder.
Ed Webb

The Iran Obsession Keeps Getting Worse | The American Conservative - 0 views

  • Military and intelligence officials are understandably wary of labeling part of another state’s military establishment as terrorists: Officials at the Pentagon and the C.I.A. — which Mr. Pompeo ran in the Trump administration’s first year — oppose designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards or the Iraqi militias as terrorist groups, fearing a backlash that could constrain American troops.
  • Iraqi opposition to a continued U.S. military presence in the country was on the rise even before Trump put his foot in his mouth about “watching Iran” from Iraq, and that opposition seems certain to increase if these proposed designations of Iraqi militias and officials go ahead.
  • The proposed terrorist designations are a good example of why the Trump administration is having such difficulty building international support for its “maximum pressure” campaign. They make a habit of insisting that other governments cooperate against Iran. Then, instead of giving them incentives to cooperate, they threaten them with penalties and drive the other governments to find workarounds to increase their cooperation with Iran instead. The U.S. is used to having its allies and clients fall in line when our government tells them what they are supposed to do, but that isn’t happening here.
Ed Webb

Trump tightens the screws on Iran's oil - 0 views

  • the White House is embarking on an economic offensive intended to collapse the Iranian government, which is already contending with a steady tempo of internal unrest driven by economic and political frustrations
  • Those who have lamented Obama’s restraint in the Middle East will now have another taste of its antithesis: the purposeful American disruption of the status quo underpinned by the assumption that things can only get better. Unfortunately, that rarely holds true in the Middle East
  • It’s not just oil: U.S. sanctions will be felt across every aspect of the Iranian economy, although in theory, agricultural products, medicines, and medical devices are exempted. In practice, the repercussions are sweeping and unpredictable
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  • This time around, Washington has chosen to go it alone on Iran, after an intense but ultimately fruitless effort by Britain, France, and Germany to devise a compromise to save the nuclear deal. That awkward episode, in which the president appeared wholly uninformed about the talks, was a feature, not a bug; spurning compromise is the modus operandi for U.S. policy toward Iran, as the latest U.S. statements ruling out sanctions waivers or exemptions make clear.
  • without the reinforcement of multilateral measures or broad diplomatic support, the Trump administration is deploying U.S. sanctions on Iran as a bludgeon rather than a scalpel in hopes of wreaking maximum havoc on Iran as quickly as possible. The financial measures targeting Iran effectively cast a much wider net than traditional trade sanctions, and the risk of steep fines or worse—loss of access to the U.S. economy—acts as a powerful deterrent for individual and firm decisionmaking even in the absence of government buy-in.
  • Iran sends its largest oil volumes to China and India, where diverse and reliable energy supplies are critical components of economic growth and national security. Both governments can draw upon ample access to bespoke financial institutions and other creative workarounds that sustain trade with Iran and are likely to seek to exploit the opportunity to press Iran for discounts and favorable payment arrangements
  • As Iran’s OPEC governor, Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, observed: “You cannot place sanctions on two OPEC founder members and still blame OPEC for oil price volatility. … this is business, Mr. President—we thought you knew it.”
  • Through considerable internal turmoil and external conflicts, Iran has been a mainstay of global energy markets for a century; the only previous sustained rupture in Iranian supply came at the hands of a British embargo in 1951-53. That blockade ended with official American conspirators helping to effect the ouster of a troublesome Iranian leadership. At the time, this seemed like a victory for Washington; over the long term, that U.S. intervention to topple nationalist prime minister Mohammad Mossadeq proved to be a disaster for American interests and for Iran.
  • America’s open antagonism provides Tehran with another excuse to intensify repression and divert blame for the country’s woes
Ed Webb

Europe moves to safeguard Iran interests after U.S. pullout | Reuters - 0 views

  • “There is a realization among all European states what we cannot keep going in the direction we are headed today whereby we submit to American decisions,”
  • Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said transatlantic ties had been gradually damaged by shifts in U.S. policy. “We are prepared to talk... but also to fight for our positions where necessary,”
  • Paris was seeking U.S. waivers and longer transition periods over Iran for French companies including Renault (RENA.PA) and Total (TOTF.PA), while pressing for European Union measures to improve the bloc’s “economic sovereignty” in the longer term.
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  • French exports to Iran doubled to 1.5 billion euros ($1.79 billion) last year, driven by jets and aircraft and automobile parts, according to customs data.
  • Exports of German goods to Iran rose by around 400 million euros to 3 billion euros. Around 120 German firms have operations with their own staff in Iran, including Siemens (SIEGn.DE), and some 10,000 German companies trade with Iran.
Ed Webb

Iranian hard-liner alleges FM Zarif is American spy - 0 views

  • After the recent move by the US Congress to renew sanctions on Iran, one prominent Iranian extremist went so far as to call Zarif an American spy
  • “Since the nuclear deal was reached, the ‘worried ones’ [the hard-liners opposed to the JCPOA] have been waiting for a suitable excuse to attack Zarif. … What better excuse than the 10-year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act? Now is the perfect moment to say that the Iranian national hero is an American spy.”
Ed Webb

Iranian Americans await payoff from nuclear deal - News from Al Jazeera - 0 views

  • "The nuclear deal with Iran has benefited Europeans and loosened up sanctions there, but there's been no relief for Iranian Americans,"
  • Al Jazeera spoke with several Iranian Americans who said a heavy-handed approach continued long after the Iran deal was passed. Many cited cases of discrimination, but wished to remain anonymous for fear of irking sanctions officials. There are an estimated one million Iranian Americans. Many describe themselves as victims of tensions between two nations that have derided each other as the "Great Satan" and part of an "Axis of Evil" since Iran's religious revolution of 1979.
  • In June, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the "psychological remnants" of curbs on Iran were still deterring business, and that Washington should do more to encourage banks to engage with Tehran. Many Iranian Americans agree. According to a Zogby Research Services poll in March, more than half of 400 respondents said that letting Americans invest in Iran was a "top priority". More than a third said it was time to lift the embargo.
Ed Webb

Wary of lifting Iran sanctions, EU overrides own courts - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the ... - 0 views

  • Since the start of 2012, the European Union, once Iran’s biggest trading partner, has imposed stringent sanctions on entities involved in the Islamic Republic’s oil and banking sectors on the basis that they are supporters or financiers of nuclear proliferation. Sanctions mean that companies’ assets held in European banks are frozen; and travel bans are imposed on listed individuals.
  • After several long and expensive legal battles, many sanctions on Iranian banks, shipping companies, insurers, oil contractors, engineering firms and universities have been declared by EU judges to have been placed in “manifest error.” But lawyers representing the Iranian plaintiffs say that several key firms remain sanctioned, despite their wins.
Ed Webb

Iraq: Iran's Economic Gateway To the World - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 0 views

  • 72% of Iran’s exports go to Iraq
  • “Iran is in dire need of Iraq, particularly at this stage; not only to market its goods, but to export them to other countries, or to facilitate the movement of Iranian funds through Baghdad to Damascus and Beirut.” He said, “Iraq is Iran’s economic outlet to the world.”
Ed Webb

Report: Sanctions may be speeding Iran's nuclear advancement - CSMonitor.com - 0 views

  • “Putting pressure is just half of the equation; [US and European officials] have succeeded with that, undoubtedly the pain on Iran is immense,” says Mr. Parsi. “But to channel the pain is a very, very different task.”
  • measures have begun to bite, causing economic isolation and a precipitous fall in both oil revenues and the value of the Iranian currency. But Iran has still added thousands of centrifuges to enrich uranium, and deployed a more efficient, second-generation centrifuge model; stepped up uranium enrichment levels from 5 percent to 20 percent, which is technically not too far from weapons-grade; and moved its most sensitive work to a deeply buried site impregnable to air attack.
  • “it is highly unlikely that the regime will succumb to sanctions pressure … [when] no proportionate sanctions relief is put on the table by the P5+1, and capitulation is seen as a greater threat to the regime’s survival than even a military confrontation with the United States.”
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  • "individuals close to the core of Iran's power structure are relishing the narrative of resistance" because although there is economic suffering, Iran “is also gaining newfound respect on the international stage due to its refusal to succumb to Western pressure.”
  • “Stark divisions among the Iranian elite are unmistakable,” notes the NIAC report. “[But] if the testimony of elite insiders is to be believed, sanctions have helped strengthen cohesion rather than intensify rifts.”
Ed Webb

Humanitarian Aid Blocked As UN Imposes New Iran Sanctions | Common Dreams - 0 views

  • Food and medical exports to Iran are being blocked from that country even though they are exempt from new sanctions instituted Monday by the European Union.
  • "With Iraq, that of course ended up with 500,000 Iraqi children dead, resulted in the shortage of medicine, and other needs, and ended up ultimately to forceful invasion and war,"
  • Washington-based sanctions attorney Eric Ferrari said food and medical exports to Iran are being blocked, even though those items are technically exempt from sanctions. According to the NIAC: He said he has encountered numerous scenarios—an attempted export of a $250,000 of burn medicine, a multimillion dollar export of prosthetic limbs, exports of food supplies—in which goods that had a license from the U.S. government, a willing exporter, and a willing importer, still were blocked because no foreign bank was willing to take the risk to facilitate the transaction.  The reason, he said, is that the U.S. government has announced broader and broader penalties for any foreign bank dealing with Iranian financial institutions, while making no distinction between prohibited and authorized transactions with those banks.  The result is fewer and fewer channels for legal, humanitarian, food, and medical transactions.
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    Some confusion here - headine refers to UN, text refers to new EU sanctions, but also to existing US sanctions. Nevertheless, it is a matter of concern that sanctions are a blunter weapon than might appear from much media coverage and political discussion.
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