18 August 2019   Leave a comment

For the 11th weekend in a row, protesters mobbed the streets of Hong Kong, and the number of protesters seemed to be the largest so far. The protesters moved back into the streets and away from the airport, a strategy designed to reduce the economic backlash against the protests. President Xi is faced with difficult choices. The People’s Liberation Army has some troops stationed in Hong Kong and there are apparently more troops being massed outside the city. But the use of troops would remind too many people of the brutal repression of the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square. And harsh repression would damage the city’s reputation as a safe place for foreign investors. President Trump also faces a difficult choice. Many Congresspeople have condemned the treatment of Hong Kong by the Beijing government, but President Trump has so far refused to criticize openly President Xi. The protesters also have difficult choices. They have clearly made their point: do they also demand that Beijing back down? Or is there some way to manage the issues without push coming to shove?

For the last few weeks, an Iranian oil tanker, the Grace I, has been held in Gibraltar, accused of violating sanctions against Syria. The seizure was part of the US policy of “maximum pressure” against Iran and was designed to deprive Iran of necessary oil revenues. Gibraltar is a British colony and it has decided to release the oil tanker. The US issued a warrant to seize the tanker on the grounds that it was associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and therefore associated with terrorism. The government of Gibraltar rejected the warrant. Al Jazeera explains the decision:

“Gibraltar’s government said on Sunday it could not comply with the US request because of European law.

“‘The Central Authority’s inability to seek the Orders requested is a result of the operation of  European Union law and the differences in the sanctions regimes applicable to Iran in the EU and the US,’ the government said in a statement.

“‘The EU sanctions regime against Iran – which is applicable in Gibraltar – is much narrower than that applicable in the US.’

“Iran has denied the tanker was ever headed to Syria

“Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Gibraltar, said the authorities in the overseas British territory had determined that US sanctions on Iran were not applicable in the EU.

“‘The US action is based on US sanctions, while the action taken by Gibraltar and the UK was enforced under EU sanctions, and as far as that issue goes there is compliance now. There was an assurance [from Iran] that this cargo on board, 2.1 million barrels of light crude oil, is not destined for Syria,’ he said. “

The British decision to repudiate the US position is a serious setback for the US government. The ship changed its name to the Adrian Darya-1 and set sail flying an Iranian flag, not the Panamanian flag of the Grace I.

Posted August 18, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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