By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - 0 Comments
A countrywide chicken shortage sparks protests in Iran as sanctions begin to bite.
The list of things Iranian media are forbidden or discouraged from depicting is long, but usually at least has the virtue of being predictable: gay sex, any other kind of sex, unveiled women, drinking parties.
This summer, television stations were warned of a new taboo: eating chicken. Tehran’s police chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam urged networks not to show anyone consuming chicken, lest the images inflame class tensions and lead to violence. “Certain people witnessing this class gap between the rich and the poor might grab a knife and think they will get their fair share from the wealthy,” he said.
Ahmadi Moghaddam’s warning comes amid a countrywide chicken shortage, with prices for remaining birds soaring beyond the reach of many consumers. The crisis has been blamed on a combination of economic mismanagement and international sanctions, which make it difficult to do even legitimate business with Iran. At least one ship full of chicken feed reportedly left Iran earlier this year without unloading its cargo because it couldn’t get paid.
By From the editors - Monday, July 23, 2012 at 11:00 AM - 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 the editors - Monday, January 30, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Sanctions from members of The European Union are appropriate and necessary
This week the Western world dramatically increased its sanctions against Iran, an effort to stem the country’s nuclear ambitions. While the array of economic deterrents is now quite broad and deep, the history of sanctions as useful policy weapons is hardly reassuring. For everyone’s sake, we should hope they’re sufficient this time around.
The European Union announced Monday that it will no longer buy Iranian oil. The 27 member countries currently consume a fifth of Iran’s output; the loss of this market will put a sizable hole in the country’s coffers. The EU also unveiled sanctions on currency transactions that will further isolate Iran’s central bank and limit the country’s ability to engage in global trade.
Canada enacted similar sanctions last November, banning almost all financial dealings and expanding the list of goods prohibited from sale to Iran. Taken together with strict measures announced by U.S. President Barack Obama in December, the scope of sanctions aimed at Iran represents an impressive display of unanimity and commitment among Western nations.
By Michael Petrou - Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 12:57 PM - 5 Comments
When I wrote this article about the ongoing uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship in Syria, the Department of Foreign Affairs’ webpage on Canada-Syria relations noted that Canada is the third-largest direct foreign investor in Syria, mostly due to a $1.2 billion Suncor/Petro-Canada gas project. The website was then amended to remove this reference.
It’s fair to assume that the Canadian government was embarrassed by the extent of Canada’s business investment in a country whose government has already slaughtered some 2,000 people. I contacted Foreign Affairs to find out their explanation. Continue…
By Jane Switzer - Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 3:05 PM - 0 Comments
The European Union has news for Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko: you’re grounded.
The European Union has news for Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko: you’re grounded. The long-time president and 156 of his close associates (including his two sons) are banned from travelling to EU countries as punishment for the imprisonment of political opponents who protested the Dec. 19 election. Lukashenko claims to have garnered 80 per cent of the vote that saw him win a fourth presidential term, but international monitors say the election was fraudulent.
The ban is the latest in a raft of sanctions against Lukashenko’s regime, dubbed “the last remaining true dictatorship in the heart of Europe” by former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice (the U.S. has also imposed new travel sanctions, in addition to upholding its existing ban on deals with Belarus’s state-controlled oil monopoly). The EU first imposed a travel ban on Lukashenko in 2006, but lifted it two years later in a bid to encourage reform. Siarhey Kastsian, head of the Belarusian parliament’s committee on international affairs, said the bans don’t mean much: “These visa bans are political barbarism from the Middle Ages,” he told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “Will they affect Lukashenko? Not at all.”
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.”
By Katie Engelhart - Saturday, February 13, 2010 at 4:34 PM - 3 Comments
Facing insolvency, Ahmadinejad will cut popular state subsidies
Since last summer, when demonstrators took to the streets to protest what they viewed as the fraudulent re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran has faced its worst upheavals since the Islamic revolution of 1979. For weeks, until a bloody crackdown by the regime in large part quelled the disturbances, proponents of the so-called Green Revolution united in a show of defiance against the ayatollahs. The response—thousands were detained and dozens killed in clashes with police—brought harsh criticism from the West, as has the government’s recent announcement that it is ramping up its nuclear program, viewed by many as a means of gaining nuclear arms. Now, with Tehran facing the threat of new sanctions that could further hurt the country’s faltering economy, the regime is bracing for more unrest. But that may come at its own initiative: with his government facing insolvency, Ahmadinejad has proposed a radical overhaul of the system of massive state subsidies that have kept life tolerable for Iran’s citizens.