Monday, August 13, 2012


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Top Stories

Washington Post:
"Last month, the Justice Department announced indictments against two people, one Chinese and the other Iranian, for conspiring to acquire maraging steel and other restricted American technology. U.S. officials say the case is part of a broader effort by Iran to dramatically expand its capacity to enrich uranium - with Chinese firms serving as willing accomplices. ... The Seattle case is at least the fourth in the past two years in which companies based in China have been accused of helping Iran try to purchase sensitive technology. Although Iran has used Chinese go-betweens in the past, U.S. officials said sanctions have forced the isolated and besieged Iranian government to rely increasingly on China for economic help and access to restricted goods. A senior Justice Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing investigations, said, "As some countries have retreated from the Iranian market with the imposition of increased sanctions, many Chinese companies appear to have moved into the void."

Financial Times:
"The New York state financial watchdog sent shivers down bankers' spines last week as it accused Standard Chartered of hiding $250bn of transactions with Iran. ... The US decision to cut off financial dealings with an Iraqi bank and a new campaign by a US group against Lebanese lenders points to the rest of the Middle East no longer being an easy option for Iranian business either. ... International banks in Dubai have been particularly concerned over dealing with Lebanon's banks for fear that they are unknowingly dealing with funds that might be related to Hizbollah, the Tehran-backed Shia group. United Against a Nuclear Iran, a US lobby group, has launched a campaign against the Lebanese economy, insisting that Hizbollah was engaged in a money laundering scheme to help facilitate Iran's evasion of sanctions - a charge that the Lebanese central bank has vehemently denied. The US organisation has called on holders of Lebanese sovereign debt and other securities to divest their holdings."

Los Angeles Times:
"Iranians turned their efforts from rescue to relief Sunday after twin earthquakes that killed more than 300 people, trying to provide medical care for more than 2,000 injured and shelter and aid for thousands left homeless. For a second night in a row, survivors of Saturday's magnitude 6.4 and 6.3 quakes in a northwestern province were advised to sleep outside for fear of continuing tremors. Bulldozers were already at work starting to clear up the rubble left from several destroyed villages. 'Official rescues halted or seem to have stopped, as there is no hope of any alive to be unearthed, and the number of Red Crescent rescue team is not big enough and few of them are trained enough,' said one resident in the town of Varzaqan. The quakes hit in a sparsely populated region, but entire villages were sent crumbling to the ground. Many others were partially damaged."  Lebanon Banking Campaign

Sunday Times: "MTN boss Sifiso Dabengwa has described claims of corruption against his company in Iran as 'not worth the paper they're written on', as a multitude of new allegations of improper behaviour were levelled at the cellphone company. ... US lobby group United Against Nuclear Iran alleged in a statement that MTN 'carried out orders from the regime to shut off text messaging and Skype during times of political protest, and reportedly has a floor in its Tehran headquarters where Iranian military officials compile and access tracking data.' The fallout took another turn on Wednesday, with media claims that MTN had approached the US government for assistance in getting its profits out of Iran. Former ambassador Mark Wallace said in a statement: 'It is of no surprise that MTN is having difficulties moving its profits out of Iran, given the international banking blockade emerging against the regime that MTN has chosen to ignore.'"

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:
"Iran's economy is under attack, and to counter the financial 'warfare' being waged against it from abroad Tehran is developing a new weapon. The 'resistive economy' is intended to wean the country of its heavy dependence on oil revenue through fiscal belt tightening, increased industrial output, and the strengthening of science to boost technological innovation. The initiative comes in response to international sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear program that have hampered Iran's ability to conduct international trade and targeted its economic lifeline -- oil exports. In outlining the strategy, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently described Iran's dependence on oil income as a destructive addiction that must be cured."

The Hill:
"President Obama signed broad new sanctions against Iran into law on Friday, but not before lawmakers of both parties expressed frustration that the bill had been sitting on his desk for a week. The top Democrat and Republican on the House Foreign Affairs panel have been urging Obama to sign into law a broad range of sanctions against Iran that Congress passed almost unanimously before breaking for summer recess last week."

"Tanzania said a shipping agent based in Dubai had reflagged 36 Iranian oil tankers with the Tanzanian flag without the country's knowledge and approval. Tanzania said it was now in the process of de-registering the vessels after an investigation into the origin of the ships concluded they were originally from Iran. Tanzania launched an investigation last month over accusations that it had reflagged oil tankers from Iran and asked the United States and European Union to help it verify the origin of the tankers flying the east African country's flag."
"A South African company in the spotlight for paying $100,000 in speaking fees to White House adviser David Plouffe is also in business with a Liberian official under U.N. sanctions for his ties to convicted war criminal and former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor.That's among the latest details to emerge on the connections involving MTN Group, a subsidiary of which paid President Obama's former campaign manager for engagements in late 2010, shortly before he joined the White House. ... A White House official told on Friday it's "worth noting" the heaviest criticism over MTN -- which came from watchdog United Against Nuclear Iran -- about its dealings in the Iran didn't start until 2012."

"It was in October 2006 that a senior executive at Standard Chartered in New York pressed the alarm bell over the bank's dealings with Iranian customers. Realizing the bank was being too slow to react to regulators' concerns that the transactions might break U.S. sanctions against Iran, Ray Ferguson, then head of Standard Chartered Americas, fired off an email warning of potentially 'catastrophic reputational damage'. While regulators have revealed some details of what led to Ferguson's email and the shockwaves it caused, Reuters has now identified executives central to the affair, how they responded, and established that between 50 and 100 people at the bank have been questioned in internal probes of the alleged transgressions."
AP: "An Iranian pilot who guided an Iran Air Boeing passenger plane to a safe emergency landing last year despite broken front landing gear has launched a campaign to lift Western sanctions that restrict the import of civilian plane spare parts. Captain Hooshang Shahbazi, hailed by Iran's media as a hero, told The Associated Press in an interview that sanctions are 'inhuman' and claimed they violate international conventions to which the United States is a signatory."

AP: "Two Indian investigators have gone to Tehran to question Iranian suspects who they believe were involved in a bomb attack that wounded an Israeli diplomat's wife in New Delhi in February, police said Monday. The investigators left for the Iranian capital last week after authorities there agreed to the Indian request to pursue the case, a police officer familiar with the case said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters."

Syrian Civil War

Reuters: "The United States said on Friday it sanctioned Syria's state-run oil company Sytrol for providing gasoline to Iran and repeated its criticism of Iran for supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad is trying to crush a rebellion against his family's 42-year rule of Syria. A member of Syria's Alawite minority, he is fighting mostly Sunni Muslim foes who Damascus says are backed by Sunni-led states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. The State Department said it had sanctioned Sytrol under the Iran Sanctions Act, which has been strengthened in recent years to make it more difficult for companies to trade with the energy sector in Iran, which the West suspects of seeking nuclear arms."

New York Times: "The United States accused the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah on Friday of deep involvement in the Syrian government's violent campaign to crush the uprising there, asserting that Hezbollah has trained and advised government forces inside Syria and has helped to expel opposition fighters from areas within the country. The American accusations, which were contained in coordinated announcements by the Treasury and State Departments announcing new sanctions against Syria, also accused Hezbollah of assisting operatives of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Quds Force in training Syrian forces inside Syria. A Treasury statement said the Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, had overseen those activities, which it called part of the Syria government's 'increasingly ruthless efforts to fight against the opposition.'"

Foreign Affairs

New York Times: "Amid intensifying Israeli news reports saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is close to ordering a military strike against Iran's nuclear program, his deputy foreign minister called Sunday for an international declaration that the diplomatic effort to halt Tehran's enrichment of uranium is dead. Referring to the Iran negotiations led by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, the minister, Danny Ayalon, told Israel Radio that those nations should 'declare today that the talks have failed.' After such a declaration, if Iran does not halt its nuclear program, 'it will be clear that all options are on the table,' Mr. Ayalon said, not only for Israel, but also for the United States and NATO. Asked how long the Iranians should be given to cease all nuclear activity, Mr. Ayalon said 'weeks, and not more than that.'"

Houston Chronicle: "Ever since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad struck a deal with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for weekly air service between the nations' distant capitals, American officials have worried that Iranian-backed terrorists could reach the rim of Latin America, pick up fake Venezuelan passports and sneak into the United States. Now, with growing talk of a pre-emptive attack by Israel to slow Iran's suspected nuclear-weapons program, Iran has threatened that it would retaliate across the globe. And Iran's easy access to the Western Hemisphere has U.S. officials particularly concerned."

Reuters: "Bahrain has reinstated its ambassador in Iran, the country's foreign minister said, more than a year after the island kingdom withdrew its envoy to protest at Tehran's criticism against a Gulf-backed crackdown on Shi'ite protesters."

Opinion & Analysis

Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic: "I'm not going to guess whether Israel will strike Iran tomorrow, next month, next year, or never. I believe it is highly plausible that Netanyahu and Barak will do so at some point over the next twelve months, if current trends remain the same. (The Atlantic Iran War Dial, which is set by a panel of 22 experts, currently puts the chance of an Israeli or American strike over the next 12 months at 38 percent.) Obviously, the Obama Administration believes that Netanyahu and Barak are itching to give the strike order soon. Otherwise, why would it have sent half the senior national security team to Israel over the past several weeks? Though I have no idea what's going to happen in the coming weeks, this seems like an opportune moment to once again list the many reasons why an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities is a bad idea. Believe me, I take seriously the arguments made by Netanyahu and Barak in favor of action against Iran (read the Shavit piece, linked above, for a very good summary of all the reasons why a nuclear Iran would be a catastrophe for Israel, and pretty damn bad for the Arabs and the West as well), but the negatives still outweigh the positives in my mind: Here are some potential consequences of an Israeli strike..."

Mark Dubowitz in Foreign Policy: "There's been a whole lot of head-scratching since it emerged -- smack in the middle of the London Olympics -- that Standard Chartered, one of the crown jewels of the British financial industry, may have been violating U.S. sanctions against Iran for the better part of a decade. The U.S. accounting firm Deloitte, which was hired to do an "independent" review of the bank's transactions, claimed to be in the dark, as did Standard Chartered executives. Even the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Reserve were caught off guard by the allegations, apparently unable to come to a consensus about the extent of the misconduct. So just how easy is it to dupe the authorities? Are sanctions really just a game of cat-and-mouse where the devious mice can simply hide bank routing information from the slow-witted cat and make off with billions of dollars worth of cheese? Or have sanctions against Iran become sufficiently airtight so that even the most creative of evasion techniques won't immunize you if you're abetting a rogue regime in the crosshairs of U.S. government officials? It turns out that Britain's once venerable Standard Chartered Bank, which stands accused of moving $250 billion in illicit funds and netting hundreds of millions in banking fees in the process, is not the only bank to run afoul of regulators recently. In recent years, U.S. authorities have imposed more than $2 billion in penalties on other sanctions evaders, including ING, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Lloyds Bank, and ABN Amro for similar activities also having to do with Iran. Just two weeks ago, the Treasury Department also sanctioned China's Bank of Kunlun and the Elaf Islamic Bank of Iraq for transacting with designated Iranian banks. Standard Chartered's approach to sanctions busting was a simple process known as 'stripping' -- the term for removing identification information from wire transfers (in this case, to hide the involvement of Iranian entities). But that's just one example of the many ways in which companies and their Iranian business partners evade sanctions."

L. Gordon Crovitz in the WSJ: "Today, finance is conducted digitally, not by moving gold bars from country to country. This makes it possible-so long as banks cooperate-to impose economic sanctions on belligerents like Iran, with its clandestine efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. And this is why there is outrage if sanctions are evaded. There was such outrage last week when New York's top bank regulator alleged that a large British bank became a 'rogue institution' that 'schemed' with Iran to cover up illegal transactions, leaving the 'U.S. financial system vulnerable to terrorists.' The bank, Standard Chartered, is accused of flouting U.S. regulations. The regulatory complaint quotes the executive running the bank's U.S. operations as warning his colleagues in 2006 that covering up Iran-related trades had the 'potential to cause very serious or even catastrophic reputational damage to the group.' ... In the case of Iran, which has been working to get nuclear weapons for almost 20 years, it's clear that appeasement is no option. Financial sanctions may not work either, but it's not up to bankers to decide whether they like the policy. Just as the Bank of England's reputation suffered by appeasing Hitler, any bank that helps Iran's nuclear ambitions by undermining sanctions deserves all the harm done to its reputation."

Eye on Iran is a periodic news summary from United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) a program of the American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc., a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Eye on Iran is not intended as a comprehensive media clips summary but rather a selection of media elements with discreet analysis in a PDA friendly format. For more information please email

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a non-partisan, broad-based coalition that is united in a commitment to prevent Iran from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons. UANI is an issue-based coalition in which each coalition member will have its own interests as well as the collective goal of advancing an Iran free of nuclear weapons.

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