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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 2-Nov-2018
2-Nov-18 World View -- EU splits on Iran sanctions after assassination attempt in Denmark

Web Log - November, 2018

2-Nov-18 World View -- EU splits on Iran sanctions after assassination attempt in Denmark

Trump's Iran sanctions, announced in May, scheduled for Sunday

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

Trump's Iran sanctions, announced in May, scheduled for Sunday

Iranian newspaper critical of Trump (AFP)
Iranian newspaper critical of Trump (AFP)

In May, the Trump administration withdrew America's position in the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). At that time, Trump announced that he was restoring wide-ranging sanctions on Iran's economy. He Trump gave oil buyers 180 days to wind down purchases of Iranian oil, and that the final deadline for oil purchases would be Sunday, November 4. From May to September, Iran's oil exports fell by about a third.

The Trump administration has the power to enforce the sanctions because of the way that the international banking systems are interlocked. Iran can sell oil to another country, but in order to get paid, payment sooner or later has to pass through an entity that can be sanctioned by the US for violating the Iran sanctions, or can be cut off from the US financial system altogether.

The European Union, which has expressed fury at the Trump administration for taking these actions, has been trying to set up a "special purpose vehicle" (SPV) that European countries can use to pay Iran without having to pass through a financial entity that the US can punish. The original plan was to have the SPV in place by Monday, but implementing it has turned out to be too complex so far. Furthermore, EU officials are said to want to avoid a "direct confrontation" with the Trump administration over Iran before the midterm elections on Tuesday.

The US has reportedly agreed to grant a waiver to India to permit Indian oil companies to continue importing Iranian oil for four more months, until March. The terms of the waiver are not fully clear, but India will be required to cut its imports by a third. India will make 45% of the purchase in its own rupee currency, which Iran can then use to purchase rice, drugs and other products from India. The other 55% of the payment will be made in euros, but this money will be held in escrow in India banks, until the sanctions are lifted.

There are also reports that South Korea will be granted a waiver, although the details are not known.

China and Japan are also seeking waivers, but have yet to receive them. China is Iran's biggest oil customer, but because of the US sanctions, China's biggest refiners have reportedly halted imports in November until the US provides clarity. CNBC and India Times and CNBC and AFP

EU splits on Iran sanctions after assassination attempt in Denmark

When Trump withdrew from from the JCPOA in May, officials in Denmark said they were shocked and surprised by Trump's decision. Former foreign minister Holger K. Nielsen said:

"It is catastrophic for him to do this. It could have very serious consequences for the entire region. This was a way to stay Iran's nuclear ambitions while giving more moderate forces wind in their sails. It is now a concern that hardliners [in Iran] will gain power. ...

That's why I am very, very concerned. If Iran resumes nuclear arms development, I fear that Israel or the US will attack Iran, and that will make the Iraq war look like a playground fight, because this would be much worse."

That was then. This is now. And now, Denmark is asking the European Union to impose additional sanctions on Iran.

On September 28, agents from Denmark's intelligence service (PET) saw an individual taking photos outside the home in Copenhagen of the leader of Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of al-Ahwaz (ASMLA). ASMLA is a separatist group demanding a separate Arab state in Iran's south-western Khuzestan Province, and is classified as a terrorist group by Iran. A previous leader of ASMLA had been shot dead in the Netherlands in November 2017, so PET was concerned that a new assassination was being planned.

By total coincidence, a Swedish-registered black Volvo started moving "suspiciously" outside the same house. When they tried to stop the car, it sped off. This triggered a major manhunt, during which a number of roads, bridges and ferry routes were shut down, including connections between Denmark and Sweden. It turned out that the three occupants of the Volvo had no relation to the ASMLA case, but that the Volvo was a stolen car. They were only caught because of the ASMLA case, making them "the world's most unlucky criminals," according to the Copenhagen police.

The man taking the pictures was a Norwegian citizen of Iranian origin. He was arrested in Norway on October 21, and extradited to Denmark. A search of his home revealed numerous photos of the residences of members of ASMLA.

Danish security officials have accused Iranian intelligence of "planning an attack on Danish soil" against Iranian Arab dissidents.

Iran's Foreign Ministry denied the country had any role in the alleged assassination plot. It said in a statement:

"This is yet another scenario in a series of conspiracies and plots by well-known Iran adversaries in an attempt to jeopardize the good and progressive Iran-EU relations at this very important and critical juncture."

Other Iranian official suggested sabotage by the US, Saudi Arabia or Israel.

Some analysts claim that hardliners in Iran's intelligence services may plan plots in Europe without the knowledge or control of Iran's government. The rogue elements may even be trying to undermine pragmatists in the Iranian government and good relations with the Europe.

This is actually believable. As I describe in my book, Iran's Struggle for Supremacy: Tehran's Obsession to Redraw the Map of the Middle East, Iran is one of the most corrupt governments in the world. Iran's constitution has no checks and balances, and the only way to get ahead in the government is through bribery, extortion and corruption.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that Washington stood behind Denmark, a Nato ally.

"We congratulate the government of #Denmark on its arrest of an Iranian regime assassin. For nearly 40 years, Europe has been the target of #Iran-sponsored terrorist attacks. We call on our allies and partners to confront the full range of Irans threats to peace and security. Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) October 30, 2018"

This situation has thrown a huge stumbling block into the EU plans to keep the JCPOA deal alive.

Iran has had a long record of pursuing opponents living abroad. Last month, a series of raids in France and across Europe caught several Iranian diplomats and sleeper cells planning terrorist operations. ( "4-Oct-18 World View -- Iran diplomats and sleeper cells arrested in France and across Europe")

There's a darkly ironic twist because Iran has strongly condemned Saudi Arabia's killing of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul Turkey, and is now accused of the same crime. Russia has used the nerve agent Novichok to murder opponents living in Britain, but to my knowledge they've issued no statement on Iran's alleged assassination attempt in Copenhagen. The Local (Denmark, 9-May) and Deutsche Welle and The Local (Denmark, 29-Sep) and Washington Post

John J. Xenakis is author of the book, Iran's Struggle for Supremacy: Tehran's Obsession to Redraw the Map of the Middle East, available on Amazon for $5 for the digital version or $7 for the paperback version.

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 2-Nov-18 World View -- EU splits on Iran sanctions after assassination attempt in Denmark thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (2-Nov-2018) Permanent Link
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