By From the editors - Monday, July 23, 2012 - 0 Comments
It takes a little pain to ensure Tehran doesn’t gain
Sanctions are meant to hurt. In lieu of declaring war or taking other military action, embargoes and sanctions have been used throughout history to inflict pain on other nations to convince them to behave. Of course, this sort of economic weaponry also has an impact on the country doing the imposing. So it should come as no surprise that Canada’s sanctions on Iran are causing some unpleasantness at home.
As we argued on this page in February, economic sanctions against Iran are a good thing. And the tougher the better. The country poses the single greatest threat to world peace due to its efforts to produce nuclear weapons and destabilize the Gulf region. There’s also plenty of evidence the current round of sanctions by Western countries is having the desired effect. Following the European Union boycott of Iranian oil this spring, petroleum exports from Iran have fallen dramatically. In fact, Tehran recently announced a major “maintenance” program at its oil fields in lieu of actually pumping the stuff. It’s also declared a ban on reporting the impact of the sanctions.
Since Canada doesn’t buy oil from Iran, our role in isolating Iran has taken the form of monetary and commercial measures. Exports of oil and gas technology have been forbidden, as have most financial transactions between Canada and Iran. And in enforcing these new rules, Toronto-Dominion Bank recently closed the accounts of dozens of Iranian-Canadian customers. This has provoked much public outrage, including calls for a boycott of TD. Nazanin Afshin-Jam, the wife of federal Defence Minister Peter MacKay and an Iranian-born human rights activist, claims the bank is “harming innocent Iranian-Canadians.” Some have likened it to racial profiling or the displacement of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War. It seems like yet another reason to hate banks.
By Alex Ballingall - Friday, January 27, 2012 at 11:25 AM - 0 Comments
Why it’s hard to take Tehran’s offer of negotiations seriously
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came forward Thursday to announce his support for renewed negotiations with the international community over his country’s uranium enrichment program. If you’re reading this, you’re likely aware that the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program—which it insists is for energy and medical isotopes, not warheads—has been getting hotter. On Monday, the 27 members of the European Union announced an oil embargo against Iran, effectively putting 18 per cent of the country’s oil exports (roughly 450,000 barrels per day) in jeopardy. The U.S., meanwhile, is pressuring oil companies in India, Japan, China and South Korea to stop dealing with Iran. And Canada has banned any economic activity with Iran’s central bank, as well as any new investment in its oil and gas industry.
Israel, meanwhile, has held air raid drills to prepare for Iranian missile strikes, while at the same time refusing to preclude the possibility of launching a pre-emptive attack on Iranian nuclear enrichment sites. And of course, as Michael Petrou recently wrote in this magazine, violent attacks and assassinations have been carried out against nuclear scientists in Iran, possibly with the involvement of Israel’s infamous Mossad intelligence agency and/or the CIA. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
Could it spill over into open conflict?
Iran and the West are engaged in an undeclared covert struggle fought through sabotage, espionage and murder that may yet escalate into open war.
The latest blow against Iran came two weeks ago in Tehran, when two assassins on a motorbike pulled up alongside a car carrying Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, deputy director of Iran’s main uranium enrichment plant, and affixed a magnetic bomb to it. The bomb exploded, killing Roshan and his driver. It was a daring and sophisticated assault, likely requiring long and intensive surveillance of the victim, one or more safe houses, access to explosives, and the ability to make a device that murdered the occupants of the targeted car without harming passersby. Iran immediately blamed Israel, the U.S. and Britain, and says it has made arrests connected to the killing.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued an explicit and categorical denial of any American involvement. Britain also said it was not involved. Israel was more circumspect. The attack came one day after Israel’s military chief, Benny Gantz, told a parliamentary committee the Iranian regime could face “unnatural” events this year. Israel Defense Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, writing on his Facebook page, said he didn’t know who had killed Roshan, but added, “I certainly won’t shed a tear.”
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, December 14, 2010 at 6:00 AM - 68 Comments
In September, U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order imposing sanctions on Iranian officials determined to be responsible for serious human rights violations.
The idea that individual Iranians must be targeted for such violations, rather than exclusively because of involvement in Iran’s nuclear program, has long been advocated by McGill University international law professor, and co-founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, Payam Akhavan. Maclean’s understand the State Department consulted IHRDC while compiling its list of blacklisted individuals.
Obama’s order is significant because until recently most sanctions imposed on Iran have focused on the nuclear file. That this might be misguided is something I explored in an article last year. Challenging Iran over its nuclear program allows the regime to play to nationalist sentiments. Challenging Iran over human rights does not. Moreover, focusing on nuclear and other weapons suggests that should the Iranians involved cooperate, sanctions will be lifted and they will not suffer long-term consequences. But targeted sanctions based on human rights violations, says Akhavan, are an intermediate step before prosecution. They send a message that, one day, you will be held to account.
“The question is what are you incentivizing,” said Akhavan in an interview with Maclean’s. “Are you incentivizing cooperation on the nuclear program, or atrocities?”
This summer Canada imposed sanctions on 42 Iranians and 279 corporations. All individuals were singled out because of suspected involvement in Iran’s nuclear or other weapons programs, or because of membership in or affiliation with the senior ranks of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. This results in some overlap with the American list. But Akhavan says the fact that those Iranians blacklisted by Canada have not been targeted specifically because human rights violations is a crucial flaw. It is notable that former Tehran prosecutor-general Saeed Mortazavi, whom Ottawa accuses of responsibility in the murder of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, is blacklisted by the United States but not Canada.
“The point is not just declaring these people inadmissible, but setting them up for eventual prosecution,” says Akhavan. “There’s no sense [in the Canadian case] that what is being incentivized is better compliance with human rights regulations. It may seem academic, but it’s not.”
Akhavan says it is particularly important for Canada to target Iranian officials guilty of abusing human rights, because many of them are putting down roots in Canada.
“Canada is probably one of the biggest money laundering centres for the Islamic Republic,” he says.
“The rhetoric of the [Canadian] government is very strong, but very little concrete action is taken to make Canada inaccessible to those who are responsible for crimes against humanity. Many of their families are here. They send their children to schools here. They have investments here. The themselves have contingency plans for when there is a democratic change in Iran. Where are they likely to escape to? Well, they are likely to come to countries like Canada. So they set up an alternative life here. And one of the messages the international community has to send is that you will have nowhere to hide, because you’re blacklisted. Only then are they going to take seriously the use of human rights violations as a political instrument — when they realize that they are individually going to have to pay a price for it.”