Posts Tagged ‘sanctions on Iran’

China Summons U.S. Envoy Over Huawei CFO

December 9, 2018
  • Tensions ratchet up after Huawei’s Meng arrested in Canada
  • U.S. alleges Chinese telecom giant violated sanctions on Iran

China’s Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng has summoned the U.S. Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, in a protest over the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co. Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, and said it will take “further action” if needed.

Meng was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1 on the orders of U.S. authorities for allegedly violating American sanctions on selling technology to Iran. Canada’s ambassador to China was summoned to the ministry on Saturday.

Wanzhou Meng

Source: Huawei

The minister said U.S. actions have violated the “legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens and are extremely bad in nature,” according to a posting on the ministry website. “China will take further action based on the U.S. actions.”

The move comes after a week in which both China and the U.S. seemed to struggle with how to react to an arrest with potentially broad reverberations. The two nations are, at the same time, trying to ratchet back a damaging trade dispute.

Image result for Skycom, photos

It’s unclear how much the summons, China’s most public display of anger over the arrest, will mark a heightening of tensions over the arrest and Huawei more generally. China regularly calls in foreign diplomats to register complaints.

Calls for comment to the White House and the State Department were not immediately returned.

Read: China’s Ire Finally Flares

Meng’s arrest, on allegations that she committed fraud to sidestep sanctions against Iran, has become a flash-point in ties between the U.S. and China that’s rattled investors and sent stock markets tumbling.

The U.S. on Friday began a case against the Chinese telecoms giant in a Vancouver courtroom, alleging that Meng had hidden ties between Huawei and a company called Skycom that did business in Iran, said a lawyer representing Canada during the court hearing.

Image result for Skycom, photos

How Huawei Arrest Extends Troubled History With U.S.

Canada’s presenting the case on behalf of the U.S., which wants to extradite Meng.

Meng, 46, daughter of Huawei’s founder, is spending the weekend in jail after a decision on whether to grant bail was not reached. The case will continue on Monday.

— With assistance by Nour Al Ali


‘Read this quickly before it’s gone’: how China’s media covered or ignored the arrest of Huawei executive

December 7, 2018

Logo von Huawei (Reuters/H. Hanschke)

Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper reported on Wednesday that Meng Wanzhou (孟晚舟), the daughter of the founder of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, Ren Zhengfei (任正非), had been arrested in Canada and faces extradition to the United States on charges of violating US trade sanctions on Iran.

Meng is also the deputy chair of Huawei, which in recent months has faced an international backlash over concerns the company is linked to the Chinese state and poses a security risk.

Meng Wanzhou

Meng Wanzhou. File photo: Huawei.

Little information is available about Meng’s arrest, which reportedly occurred on December 1. Ian McLeod, a spokesman for Canada’s Justice Department, told the Globe and Mail: “As there is a publication ban in effect, we cannot provide any further detail at this time. The ban was sought by Ms Meng.”

So far, Chinese mainstream media have been largely silent on the case. A handful of media have picked up an early news release from the official China News Service that closely follows the press release from the Chinese Embassy in Canada.

That release registered a strong protest, saying that Meng’s arrest had “seriously harmed the human rights of the victim.”

The China Daily, published by the Information Office of the State Council, released an article in Chinese earlier today quoting the official release from Huawei saying that Meng has done nothing wrong and they are confident there will be a fair result.

Huawei Canada

Huawei, Canada. Photo: Wikicommons.

The official Xinhua News Agency did not release a report in English until around 5PM today Beijing time. That report again closely followed the remarks from the Chinese Embassy in Canada and the official Huawei release.

As of 8:30PM Beijing time there was still no Xinhua story in Chinese carried prominently on the service’s website, though far down the list of news was a transcript of the foreign ministry press conference.

Xinhua was focussed instead on Xi Jinping’s trip to Spain, Portugal and Latin America, and on the 40th anniversary of China’s “reform and opening” policy.

No doubt the timing of the Meng Wanzhou story, coming less than two weeks ahead of the formal anniversary on December 18, will also be a point of great sensitivity for the Party leadership.


Xinhua homepage, December 6 2018. Photo: Screenshot.

There were also stories on both the Chinese and English sides of Caixin. Interestingly, though, while the English report is prominent, the Chinese report was pushed lower down at around 4pm Beijing time, emphasising in the headline the fierce response from the Chinese Embassy in Canada — and two hours later that story was not visible at all on the Chinese homepage.

The English-language page at Caixin gave the Meng Wanzhou arrest story central play, and by 5pm Beijing time also paired it with the story of Huawei’s troubles in the UK.

The Chinese homepage of Caixin at around 4pm Beijing time on December 6 showed the Huawei story of the arrest of Meng Wanzhou well below other featured articles.

By 5pm Beijing time on the same day, no stories about Huawei or its CFO, Meng Wanzhou, were visible on the Chinese-language Caixin homepage.


The English-language page at Caixin gives the Meng Wanzhou arrest story central play, and by 5PM Beijing time also pairs it with the story of Huawei’s troubles in the UK. Photo: Screenshot.

But lack of information on this breaking story, and relative silence from traditional and state-run media cannot forestall the conversation in China. There has been a flurry of chatter and speculation on Weibo and WeChat, although of course, that conversation is in a state of constant emergence and disappearance.

Here, courtesy of the Weiboscope, are a few of the more recent Weibo posts that have been removed, most dealing directly with the original report from the Globe and Mail:

  • 2018-12-06 13:29:55 | #ImmigrantObserver # MengWanzhou (Sabrina Wanzhou Meng) born 1972, is the daughter of Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, and Meng Dongbo (孟东波), the father of her mother, Meng Jun (孟军), served as deputy governor of Sichuan province. She at the very least has Chinese, American and Canadian passports!
  • 2018-12-06 07:31:11 | [Meng Wanzhou, Daughter of Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei, arrested in Canada] Canada’s Global and Mail newspaper reported that the daughter of Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou, has been arrested in Canada and faces extradition to the U.S. American law enforcement authorities have said that Meng Wanzhou is suspected of violating U.S. trade sanctions against Iran.
  • 2018-12-06 07:24:50 | [Foreign Media: Ren Zhengfei’s daughter and Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has been arrested in Vancouver] News, Beijing time, December 6. According to Canada’s Globe and Mail, quoting Ian McLeod of Canada’s Justice Department, Canada has arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

Marco Rubio


If @Huawei has been helping violate US sanctions by transferring US technology to they should be barred from operating in the US or from purchasing US technology.

488 people are talking about this

A Weibo search for “Meng Wanzhou” directs readers to two posts from state media, one from CCTV Online and the other from the Global Times. The CCTV post is a short video relaying the response from China’s Foreign Ministry, calling on Canada and the U.S. to immediate release Meng and to “protect the legitimate rights of the person involved.”

The Global Times post similarly focuses on what at present seems right now to be the core message of the leadership: Meng must be immediately released.

The battle by ordinary citizens and other non-official voices to have a say on the Meng case, over and against the official urge to control the development of the issue online, could be glimpsed openly on social media.

In a post made around 8:30pm to Weibo, Zhu Wei (朱伟), an entrepreneur with more than two million followers on the platform, posted the following message:

“This topic is so sensitive. The headline article on my WeChat public account ‘Teacher Zhu Wei’ (朱伟老师), ‘Chinese Embassy in Canada: We Demand the Immediate Return of Meng Wanzhou’s Freedom’ was deleted by the relevant departments. Right now I’m reposting it on Weibo, so read it really quickly before it’s gone.”

Huawei phone

Photo: Kārlis Dambrāns/Flickr.

In a Weibo post, entrepreneur Zhu Wei tells readers to quickly read his post already deleted from the WeChat platform — before it once again disappears.

The article in question by Zhu Wei, offered a rundown of the official statements from the foreign ministry and from Huawei, and then included a paragraph by paragraph translation of the original report from the Globe and Mail.

Another post from the Weibo account of the Putian Media Group (莆田广播电视台) offered readers a video from talk Meng Wanzhou gave in English on September 26 at the World Academic Summit in Singapore.

The post, which bore the hashtag “#MengWanZhouArrested,” noted that Meng’s talk had been about “how to promote industry innovation.” But the video was soon disabled, yielding the message: “We’re sorry, this video cannot be displayed. Please view another video.”

Some commenting on WeChat and other platforms voiced anger over Meng’s arrest, viewing it through the lens of US-China competition, as a provocative act and a sign that the United States and other Western countries want to keep China down, even stripping it of its “right to develop.”


File photo: Sinchen.Lin/Flickr.

In a piece shared widely on WeChat, Mei Xinyu (梅新育), a financial writer with more than one million followers on Weibo, wrote:

“Finally, I want to emphasise again the assessment I had a few days ago: through equal and rational dialogue a new cold war between China and the US can be avoided, and this would be a great thing for both countries and for the world.

“But the sky rains when it wants to, and girls marry when the time comes, and if certain people insist on foisting a ‘new cold war’ upon us, China has sufficient courage to meet this challenge, upholding China’s right to development in the midst of this struggle.”

Republished with permission from the China Media Project.

How Trump Can Get a Better Deal on Iran

October 11, 2018

The United States needs to keep Europe on board, go beyond sanctions, and ensure lasting bipartisan support for its new policy.


Foreign Policy | 

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini during a meeting at the European Union Headquarters in Brussels on May 25, 2017.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini during a meeting at the European Union Headquarters in Brussels on May 25, 2017. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Apparently, one of the top leaders of a “corrupt dictatorship” responsible for sowing “chaos, death, and destruction” can also be an “absolutely lovely man.” At least U.S. President Donald Trump seems to think so, having uttered all of these words in reference to President Hassan Rouhani’s Iran in the course of a single day at last month’s United Nations General Assembly in New York.

This pairing of criticism and compliments is a paradox with a purpose. Trump is not content with having discarded the Iran nuclear deal inked in 2015 by his predecessor; he wants to negotiate a better one.

Trump is not content with having discarded the Iran nuclear deal inked in 2015 by his predecessor; he wants to negotiate a better one.

And in echoes of his policy toward North Korea, he intends to squeeze Iran as hard as possible until it agrees to come to the table.

It is a simple strategy, but not without significant risks. The clearest is that rather than or prior to knuckling under, Iran will escalate by ramping up its nuclear activities and provoking a crisis. Taking a page from North Korea’s playbook, Tehran may calculate that the United States will feel pressure to pay simply for a return to the status quo ante.

A less alarming but perhaps likelier risk is that Tehran will simply hold out, seeking merely to endure for a time rather than bargaining to relieve crushing economic pressure, as authoritarian regimes from Venezuela to Iraq have done in the past.

If it takes this route, Iran will likely be counting on three things working in its favor: that the United States will be isolated internationally, that the Trump administration’s approach will prove polarizing domestically and will be discarded by his successor, and that Washington will be unwilling to go beyond sanctions to challenge Iran across the region.

If the Trump administration wants to maximize pressure on Iran, it must frustrate Tehran’s expectations on all three fronts while dissuading it from expanding its nuclear pursuits.

If the Trump administration wants to maximize pressure on Iran, it must frustrate Tehran’s expectations on all three fronts while dissuading it from expanding its nuclear pursuits.

Doing this will require a strategy that is at once multilateral—a comprehensive plan supported by U.S. allies that goes beyond sanctions to utilize all policy tools available including diplomatic, intelligence, and military means—and sustainable, garnering sufficient bipartisan domestic support to seem likely to outlast Trump’s tenure in office.The first step in such a strategy must be to heal the rift between the United States and its allies—particularly France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, which negotiated the nuclear deal alongside Washington.

Despite their discord over the U.S. withdrawal from the deal and Washington’s reimposition of sanctions, the United States and its allies in Europe and elsewhere agree more than they disagree on Iran. None wishes to see Iran develop a nuclear weapon, and all are alarmed by the country’s development and proliferation of missiles and other weapons and fielding of proxy forces throughout the Middle East.

Given this overlap, negotiating a modus vivendi between the United States and Europe should be achievable. The Trump administration should show modest flexibility in its application of sanctions, and the European Union should join the United States in imposing costs on Iran targeting areas of mutual concern such as Iran’s missile program and activities in Syria.

Some will complain about any compromise regarding U.S. unilateral measures, but such objections are misguided. The United States and its allies standing together would deprive Iran of strategic advantage and more than offset any marginal decrease in U.S. pressure.

The United States and its allies standing together would deprive Iran of strategic advantage and more than offset any marginal decrease in U.S. pressure.

And flexibility on the implementation of new sanctions could enable European powers to dissuade Iran from ramping up its nuclear activities and give them space to cajole Iran back to negotiations over the list of concerns the United States and its allies share.

But a common U.S.-European diplomatic front will not be enough. Faced with economic pressure, Iran—as we have already seen in Iraq—may respond on the ground in areas where it supports proxies and where it perceives a comparative advantage over Western states that are weary of the Middle East. It may also question whether Trump, who has been harshly critical of past U.S. interventions in the region, would respond resolutely to an Iranian nuclear breakout, whereby it seeks to rapidly build a nuclear weapon.

Countering Iran in the region need not, and indeed should not, be strictly a military activity. Indeed, any Iran policy has to account for the reality that Washington’s top priorities increasingly lie outside the Middle East. But the application of limited force—retaining the small U.S. troop presence in Syria or expanding allied efforts to interdict Iranian arms shipments—can amplify the effect of diplomacy.

That diplomacy should aim both to resolve conflicts like Yemen’s, which Iran has exploited to expand its regional influence, and, just as critically, to deny Tehran new opportunities for meddling that arise from squabbling among U.S. allies or internal tensions within regional states.

Finally, the Trump administration must secure bipartisan support for its strategy toward Iran. Republicans should understand that dissuading Iran from pursuing the actions enumerated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is likely to be a long-term endeavor.

Democrats should recognize that merely stepping back into the nuclear deal, should they win back the White House, may not be so easy—especially as the agreement’s restrictions approach their expiration dates—and that they will in any event require a strategy for addressing the nonnuclear challenges Iran poses.

The increasing volatility of U.S. foreign policy on critical issues such as Iran not only encourages allies and adversaries alike to hold out for a more favorable future policy, but it also diminishes Washington’s ability to lead.

The increasing volatility of U.S. foreign policy on critical issues such as Iran not only encourages allies and adversaries alike to hold out for a more favorable future policy, but it also diminishes Washington’s ability to lead.

Both parties must assume responsibility for reversing this trend.At the moment, the Trump administration appears isolated on Iran. But in reality, the concerns it has articulated regarding Iranian policies are widely shared in the United States and abroad, and U.S. allies are eager for American leadership on thorny regional issues such as Syria and Yemen.

Trump may never get his made-for-TV moment with an Iranian leader. But if he can rally his allies rather than alienate them, and if his offer to Tehran of a diplomatic offramp is genuine, he can ensure that Iran pays a price for challenging U.S. interests—and perhaps even coax it back to the negotiating table.

After Trump’s Threat to Iran, White House Convenes a Policy Meeting

July 26, 2018

High-level gathering is just the third called by Bolton, a key adviser, since assuming post

President Trump, flanked by national security adviser John Bolton, on the second day of the NATO Summit on July 12 in Brussels.
President Trump, flanked by national security adviser John Bolton, on the second day of the NATO Summit on July 12 in Brussels. PHOTO:SEAN GALLUP/GETTY IMAGES



Four days after President Trump’s stern warning via Twitter to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, national security adviser John Bolton is scheduled to hold a meeting Thursday of Pentagon and other top officials on the administration’s emerging strategy on Iran.

The meeting, which follows Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear accord and reimpose tough economic sanctions on Tehran, comes as key elements of the administration’s Iran policy remain unclear.

Among them: what U.S. might give in return for a new agreement with Tehran, and whether Washington is prepared to use military force along with economic pressure to roll back Iran’s assertive posture in the Middle East.

The discussions are to take place among members of the administration’s Principals Committee, a Cabinet-level panel on national security issues that Mr. Bolton chairs and whose members include Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, among other senior officials.

The White House hasn’t announced the meeting, but administration officials said it would be just the third time that Mr. Bolton has convened the group since assuming his post in April.

It is unclear what military options, if any, Pentagon officials might bring to the table. In the past, the Defense Department has worked on limited military options, such as stopping Iranian weapons and equipment from reaching the Houthis, who are battling the U.S.-backed government in Yemen.

The Pentagon, however, isn’t eager to get into a war with Iran at a time when its strategy emphasizes building up capabilities to deter Russia and China, and the outcome of talks with North Korea is still uncertain. On Tuesday, Mr. Mattis deflected a question on which Iranian actions might trigger a U.S. military response, saying, “It’s time for Iran to shape up and show responsibility.”

From the start of his presidential campaign, Mr. Trump has been an unwavering critic of the 2015 agreement that constrained Iran’s nuclear program.

When H.R. McMaster served as national security adviser, the administration conducted a review of Iran policy as reflected in a speech Mr. Trump gave in October 2017. In it, he announced steps, including working with allies to counter Tehran’s “destabilizing activity and support for terrorist proxies” in the Middle East.

After Mr. Trump decided in May to leave the accord, Mr. Pompeo outlined 12 requirements for reaching a new agreement with Iran, including the end of Iran’s support for militant groups in the region and the prohibition on uranium enrichment.

To isolate Tehran economically and politically, the administration also threatened sanctions on nations that will not end imports of oil from Iran by Nov. 4.

In a speech in Kansas City, Mo., to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Tuesday, Mr. Trump said that he was “ready to make a real deal” with Iran. But some former officials believe the goal of others in the administration is to weaken and perhaps even destabilize the Iranian regime.

“What we see from Trump himself is the notion that he can negotiate a bigger and better deal by using pressure to bring the Iranians back to the table with more American leverage,” said Suzanne Maloney, a former State Department official who is at the Brookings Institution. “That view isn’t shared by others in the administration like the national security adviser and secretary of State who see sanctions as an end in itself.”

Mr. Bolton and Mr. Pompeo have insisted they are not pursuing regime change.

Additional questions include whether the U.S. can form a united front with European nations that have sought to preserve the 2015 nuclear agreement, and whether Washington might take military steps to increase the pressure on Iran.

“Any strategy requires a clear objective and the means to pursue that objective,” said Dennis Ross, a former diplomat who is at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Right now, I am not sure what the objective is, and the only means being used are rhetoric and sanctions.”

Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations, however, defended the Trump administration’s approach of stiffening U.S. demands that Iran curtail its nuclear activities while pushing back on its behavior in the region.

“The policy is conceptually sound, and now the question is the operationalization of it,” he said. “There is a recognition that there is domestic discontent and an attempt to exploit that vulnerability. The economic side of the policy is becoming quite mature and at the end of the day that is probably the most important element of it.”

Before the Helsinki summit, Mr. Bolton voiced hope that Mr. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin might work together to scale back Iran’s role in Syria. But U.S. intelligence experts say that Russia may not have the interest and ability to get Iranian forces out of Syria, and no agreement toward this end was announced in Helsinki.

Write to Michael R. Gordon at, Nancy A. Youssef at and Peter Nicholas at


John Bolton Meeting With Pentagon, Congressional Planners on Iran Amid Sabre-Rattling

July 26, 2018

U.S. National security advisor John Bolton is expected to meet with lawmakers and Pentagon planners in a strategy development session on Iran.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday kept open the possibility of negotiating an agreement to denuclearize Iran, two days after he rattled his saber at the nation on Twitter, Reuters reported.

“We’ll see what happens, but we’re ready to make a real deal, not the deal that was done by the previous administration, which was a disaster,” he said during a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Iran did not seem to get the message.

Related image

On Thursday, Iran’s Quds force chief Qassem Soleimani said the Red Sea was no longer safe due to the presence of U.S. forces.

Just days ago, Houthi rebels in Yemen, allies of Iran, attacked a Saudi Arabian oil tanker.

Soleimani also said U.S. President Donald “Trump should know that we are nation of martyrdom and that we await him,”


U.S. Rejects French Request for Waivers from Sanctions on Iran

July 13, 2018

The United States has rejected a French request for waivers for its companies operating in Iran that Paris sought after President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Le Figaro.

Image result for French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, photos

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire 

Paris had singled out key areas where it expected either exemptions or extended wind-down periods for French companies, including energy, banking, pharmaceuticals and automotive.

Officials had expressed little hope for securing the waivers, which were critical for oil and gas major Total (TOTF.PA) to continue a multibillion-dollar gas project in Iran and for carmaker PSA Group (PEUP.PA) to pursue its joint venture.

French reinsurer Scor SE (SCOR.PA) said on Friday it will not seek new contracts or renew existing business in Iran, given the U.S. sanctions.

Most international insurers in Iran are working with the shipping and energy industries in the country.

“We have just received Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s response: it’s negative,” Le Maire told Le Figaro in an interview published on Friday.

Le Maire said Europe needed to react quickly and protect its economic sovereignty.

“Europe must provide itself with the tools it needs to defend itself against extra-territorial sanctions,” Le Maire added.


Washington announced in May it was imposing new economic penalties on Tehran after pulling out of a multilateral 2015 agreement, under which Tehran had agreed to curb its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.

Trump’s sanctions are aimed at pressuring Iran to negotiate a new agreement to halt its nuclear programs that might include Tehran’s regional activities and ballistics development. In particular, Washington wants to curtail the oil exports that are key to Iran’s economic revival.

Earlier this month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appeared to threaten to disrupt oil shipments from its neighbors if Washington pressed ahead with trying to force countries to stop buying Iranian oil.


Reporting by Richard Lough and Inti Landauro, editng by Larry King and Laurence Frost

India, a Key U.S. Ally, Plans to Ignore Trump’s Iran Sanctions

May 29, 2018
India only recognizes UN sanctions, foreign minister said — Throughout previous sanctions, India purchased Iranian oil
India plans to ignore U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans to impose sanctions on Iran.

Photographer: Chris Kleponis/Consolidated News Photos

President Donald Trump may have ordered the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, but one of Asia’s biggest oil importers — and a key strategic ally of the U.S. — plans on ignoring them.

India, a long-time buyer of oil from both Iran and Venezuela, only complies with United Nations-mandated sanctions and not those imposed by one country on another, said foreign minister Sushma Swaraj at a press conference in New Delhi on Monday.

“India will comply with UN sanctions and not any country-specific sanctions,” Swaraj said at an annual briefing, flanked by her two junior foreign ministers and India’s foreign secretary.

Swaraj later met Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, where they discussed Trump’s plan to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Swaraj said “all parties to the agreement should engage constructively for peaceful resolution of the issues,” according to a foreign ministry statement.

Indian refiners had slashed purchases of Iranian crude to about half their previous levels when the United Nations, European Union and U.S. imposed a broad array of economic sanctions against Tehran. Nevertheless, India continued to import Iranian crude oil and was among the last six customers of the Persian Gulf nation.

Purchases by India, which meets over 80 percent of its oil needs through imports, surged after the sanctions were lifted in 2016. Indian refiners bought a record 27.2 million tons of Iranian oil during the year through March 2017, a whopping 114 percent increase over the previous year.

Closer Ties

Washington and New Delhi have overcome Cold War-era tensions and grown much closer in the past two decades, in part due to U.S. strategic concerns about China’s growing influence in Asia.

But India’s post-independence history as a leader of the “non-aligned” movement — developing nations not allied with the U.S. or the then-Soviet Union — means New Delhi maintains economic relationships that raise eyebrows in western capitals, including with Iran, Venezuela and North Korea. India also ignored U.S. requests to close its embassy in North Korea, Swaraj said at her briefing.

In February, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani visited India and met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss energy cooperation and New Delhi’s investments in Iran’s Chabahar port.

Trump is also considering new sanctions on Russia, a historic ally and key supplier of arms to India, related to allegations that Vladimir Putin’s government interfered in the U.S. election.





US and EU head for showdown over shutting Iran off from finance

May 17, 2018

Washington sanctions put Swift payments network in spotlight

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Swift reopened links with Iran following the pasage of the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 © Reuters

Sam Fleming in Washington, Philip Stafford in London and Jim Brunsden in Brussels 

The US and EU are heading for a showdown over how to handle one of the linchpins of the global financial system following Donald Trump’s decision to re-impose sanctions on Iran.

The US has declared its determination to sever Iranian banks and the Tehran central bank from foreign financial institutions as it increases sanctions in the coming months. Part of doing so will probably involve ensuring the Belgium-based Swift network, whose financial messaging system facilitates cross-border payments, cuts off the Iranian banking system as it did before the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2015.

Swift, which sent more than 7bn messages last year, severed links with Iran in 2012 after the US pressured the EU to impose sanctions. Following the passage of the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, Swift reopened links.

The question now is whether the EU will co-operate with any US requests for those connections to be severed again and whether Swift will find itself caught in the crossfire of a transatlantic dispute over sanctions, analysts say.

Richard Nephew, a scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, said: “I absolutely see this as a flashpoint between both sides. Swift has maintained it will only do what it is instructed to do from Brussels and there is no indication that the EU will bend on this point for the Trump administration.”

Fighting the Americans on Swift is a powerful if high-risk option for the Europeans

The US pushed for years to get the Swift sanctions imposed back in 2012, so obtaining a deal could be even more difficult this time round given the fractious relations between the US and EU.

In a statement, Brussels-based Swift said US Treasury guidance suggested a ban would not come into effect until early November. “As there has been no related change to EU legislation we will naturally be consulting with and seeking clarification from both EU and US authorities. Our mission remains to be a global and neutral service provider to the financial industry,” it added.

Swift connects more than 11,000 banks around the world and sent an average 28m messages a day in 2017. According to one person briefed on the discussions, the UK, France and Germany may try to negotiate carve-outs for their institutions and payments systems most likely to be affected by sanctions, and would also include provisions for Swift.

Elizabeth Rosenberg, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a former US Treasury adviser on Iran and North Korea sanctions from 2009 to 2013, said there were routes open to the US should it not get EU co-operation on Swift.

One idea that has been discussed in the past would be for the US Treasury to target the entire board of Swift. But Ms Rosenberg said this would be a poor idea given the 25-strong board comprised senior executives from a range of member institutions including major western banks. “The US could not be more clear that they are going after Swift,” she added.

“Fighting the Americans on Swift is a powerful if high-risk option for the Europeans,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a research fellow who focuses on Iran at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “America must clearly convey its intention to enforce sanctions and work to prevent Europe from contesting any of these penalties come November. The open question is what is Swift’s tolerance for risk, and what side of the Atlantic will it follow. Legally they have to follow Brussels, but America has huge economic power in this situation.”

The US Treasury declined to comment. But its recent guidelines suggest that US sanctions on the provision of specialised financial messaging services to the Central Bank of Iran and Iranian financial institutions will be re-imposed after a 180-day wind-down period ending on November 4 2018.

Other financial infrastructure providers could also garner attention, especially international central securities depositories Euroclear and Clearstream, owned by Deutsche Börse. The utilities are where both the asset and cash meet and are swapped, and the deal is treated as final.

In 2013 Clearstream agreed to pay $152m to settle allegations by Washington that its settlement business may have violated US sanctions on Iran. Its subsequent policy has been not to engage directly with Iran or Iranian-owned entities.

Euroclear said it would abide by all laws applicable to it and said it would need to analyse the scope of any sanctions.

U.S. Raises Pressure on Iran With Sanctions on Currency Exchange

May 10, 2018

In first action since pulling out of nuclear deal, Treasury accuses Iran’s central bank of being complicit in funneling dollars to elite military unit

The U.S. Treasury Department said the cash was taken back to Iran's elite military unit known as the Quds Force, a wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The U.S. Treasury Department said the cash was taken back to Iran’s elite military unit known as the Quds Force, a wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. PHOTO: EBRAHIM NOROOZI/ASSOCIATED PRESS


WASHINGTON—The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday levied sanctions against several Iranian firms, individuals and officials it said are operating an illegal currency-exchange network in the United Arab Emirates, and accused Iran’s central bank of being complicit in operations that funneled dollars into the country for Iran’s elite military unit, the Quds Force, and Tehran’s regional proxies.

The action, the first since President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the landmark nuclear deal with Iran and Washington began reimposing economic sanctions against Tehran, is a step toward cutting off the Middle Eastern country’s access to U.S. dollars and signals the administration is intent on enforcing compliance of its new Iran policy around the world.

Will Trump’s Iran Bet Pay Off?

After President Donald Trump’s big gamble to pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal, the focus now shifts to Tehran, the Iranian people and America’s allies. Gerald F. Seib explains the high stakes. Photo: Getty

The U.S. blacklisted an Iranian company, Jahan Aras Kish, that it said is a front company for the sanctioned Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite military unit, the Quds Force. The Treasury said the firm received oil revenues from Central Bank of Iran accounts and gave that money to couriers who exchanged it for U.S. dollar notes through two Iranian firms, Khedmati & Co. and Rashed Exchange, in the U.A.E. That cash was then taken back to the Quds Force and distributed to Iran’s regional proxies, the U.S. said. To hide the activities from U.A.E. authorities, the Treasury Department said the network used forged documents.

Three firms and six Iranians who either worked for the firms or the Quds Force have been blacklisted by the Treasury Department and U.A.E.’s government in a joint action.

“Countries around the world must be vigilant against Iran’s efforts to exploit their financial institutions to exchange currency and fund nefarious actions of the IRGC-QF and the world’s largest state sponsor of terror,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

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Pompeo to immediately pursue talks with allies on Iran: U.S. officials

May 10, 2018

Immediately on returning from North Korea on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will embark on talks with allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia to try to persuade them to press Iran to curb its nuclear and missile programs, U.S. officials said.

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The open question is whether the allies, and above all Iran, will agree to resume full-fledged talks having just seen the United States withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and renege on its promises under the landmark arms control accord.

The U.S. hope is that Iran will be dragged to the table by the resumption of U.S. sanctions – and possibly the imposition of more – which would penalize European and other companies and likely cripple Iran’s oil-driven economy.

A senior State Department official said discussions with Britain, France and Germany, as well as Japan, Iraq and Israel on next steps had already taken place since U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday pulled out of the nuclear pact.

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“There will be an effort to go out globally and talk to our partners around the world who share our interests. That is the first stage,” a senior State Department official said of plans for talks by Pompeo and his chief Iran negotiator, Brian Hook.

“The composition of what happens when we sit down with the Iranians is several stages out,” the official said, adding that talks would focus on how to raise pressure on Iran “in a way that is constructive and conducive to bringing them to the negotiating table.”

Trump’s decision opens the door to greater U.S. confrontation with Tehran and strains relations with America’s closest allies, current and former diplomats said.

Washington has given grace periods of 90 days to six months for companies to wind down their trade with Iran. Some allies, like France, will push for exemptions from U.S. sanctions to protect their companies.

Even though companies can seek U.S. Treasury licenses to continue operating in Iran beyond the deadlines, the threat of U.S. sanctions will likely force them out, experts say.


Companies will also have to assess whether they could face revived secondary sanctions, which would target sectors of the Iranian economy, including energy, petrochemicals, shipping, financial and banking, experts say.

“The goal is ultimately to reach a point where we sit down with the Iranians and negotiate a new deal, but I don’t think we’re at that point today, or will be tomorrow,” the State Department official said.

“The ultimate goal is to lay the groundwork for getting everyone back to the table and negotiating a new deal.”

Several U.S. officials have acknowledged there is no “Plan B” if Washington cannot win the support of allies – and Iran – to negotiate a new expanded agreement, which would end Iran’s nuclear program, restrain its ballistic missiles program, and curb its support for groups in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.

“The goal is to prevent Iran from ever developing or acquiring a nuclear weapon and the detail beyond that is something we are going to have to flesh out,” the official added.

William Peek, deputy U.S. assistant secretary for the bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department, denied the pressure campaign aimed to force regime change in Iran.

“No, we are trying to change the regime’s behavior,” he told reporters on a conference call, adding that Washington would use diplomacy to convince allies to follow the U.S. sanctions lead.

Peek acknowledged there are some “diplomatically tactical disagreements” with Europeans, but said those differences could be overcome. “This is something where we cajole, we urge, we prod, which have proven effective,” he added.

While the parties were unable to agree on a supplemental pact to the 2015 nuclear deal, the senior official said a new round of talks would “pick up all of the work” done so far.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Robert Birsel