11 May 2018   Leave a comment

Peter Harrell has written an essay for Foreign Affairs on the difficulties the US will have re-imposing sanctions on Iran.  Unfortunately, Foreign Affairs has a harsh paywall so I will quote extensively from it because Harrell has information about which I was unaware.  One of the more interesting bits of evidence was that the Europeans have figured a possible way to avoid financial sanctions that might come about if the US tried to penalize companies and governments that continue to trade and invest with Iran:  “A determined Europe could take steps to undermine the impact of U.S. unilateral sanctions, such as routing Iran-related financial transactions through the European Central Bank.”  That course of action would undoubtedly roil the global financial infrastructure and I have doubts about whether the European Central Bank would be willing to defy the US Treasury Department.  But Harrell argues that there are strong incentives to maintain current economic relations:

“Since sanctions were suspended in early 2016, however, Iran’s oil exports have rebounded, reaching approximately two million barrels per day in 2017. China and India are the largest importers, with South Korea, Japan, and several European states also buying significant quantities of Iranian crude. China appears particularly unlikely to reduce its purchases of Iranian crude, given heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington over bilateral trade and investment issues.

“Trump will also face significant diplomatic hurdles in Europe, where trade with Iran has surged since the JCPOA went into force. From 2015 to 2017, European imports from Iran rose by nearly 800 percent (primarily driven by renewed European imports of Iranian oil), while European exports to Iran rose by more than four billion euros ($5 billion) annually over the same period. Major European companies have also resumed investing in Iran: France’s Total, for example, has announced plans to invest $1 billion in one of Iran’s largest offshore gas fields. Although European governments broadly supported sanctions on Iran between 2010 and 2016, governments today would resist pressure to curb oil imports and trade with Iran given anger at Trump for withdrawing from the JCPOA and ongoing U.S.-EU tensions over trade policy.”

Europe would probably have strong support from China and Russia which have already indicated that they will not support the re-imposition of sanctions.


Satellite radar imaging, called SAR (synthetic aperture radar) has been conducted on Mt. Mantap at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site for North Korea.   According to the British newspaperThe Express: “Thermal imagery, radar snapshots and seismic readings from before and after the nuclear test, reveal the mountain’s surface was pushed upwards by 11 feet and crumbled down by 20 inches.”  North Korea had announced that it had paused testing at the site in advance of the summit meeting between North Korean leader Kim and US President Trump.  But it may be the case that the testing site is no longer viable. 

six bomb tests on Mt. Mantap, North Korea


The upcoming week in Israel, the West Bank, and Iran merits close attention. 13 May is “Jerusalem Day” in Israel as Israelis celebrate their control over the city.  The holiday is an occasion where parades are conducted by Israeli nationalists to demonstrate their deep commitment to the city and those parades have invariably enraged the Palestinian residents of the city.  That holiday will be followed by the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem which has also rouse the ire of Palestinians.  According to Neri Zilber in The Atlantic: “A large dedication ceremony is planned, with dozens of U.S. lawmakers, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, set to attend. The chosen date was no coincidence: It falls on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence, with Washington now recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”  The Palestinians view 15 May as Nabka (“catastrophe”) Day which for them represents their displacement from land they consider their own upon the creation of the state of Israel 70 years ago.   That day also is the final day of the protests in the Gaza Strip which have been organized by Hamas to call the world’s attention to the dire situation of Palestinians in the Gaza.  Over 40 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire since the protests began on 30 March.   Finally at sundown on 15 May the holy month of Ramadan begins for the world’s Muslims.  Ramadan has often been the occasion of protests against Israeli control of the Occupied Territories.  On top of all of these events, the prospect of continued fighting between Israel and Iran over the situation in Syria and the Golan Heights remains highly likely.

Posted May 11, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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