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Friday, October 18, 2019

(From Combined Services)

For years now, the U.S. and its European counterparts have been placing sanctions on those who help foster, through finance and technology, the Iranian nuclear development program. Whether by freezing assets, banning companies from doing business with Iran, or going after the wheelers and dealers of international trade, the result has been a major blow to the Iranian economy, though a dubious one to its nuclear program.

But now those targeted, especially in the EU, have enlisted a new tactic: using the EU courts to challenge the restrictions.

Adopting the principle of “show us the proof” warranting actions taken against them, companies such as Iran’s Bank Mellat are demanding that the evidence used in granting those sanctions be produced in court. However, since much of that evidence is considered “secret” by the various EU governments, it is feared that the release of such information would expose confidential intelligence. The courts, in turn, have been forced to respond that without evidence there is no justifiable case. The General Court has ruled that the EU was “in breach of the obligation to state reasons and the obligation to disclose to the applicant...the evidence adduced against it.”

“It may be politically embarrassing,” said Maya Lester, a London-based lawyer who represents companies and individuals in Iranian litigation, “but in terms of upholding the rule of law, what the European court has done is impressive and quite brave. It shows it to be a court upholding human rights...which is not easy given how political Iranian sanctions are.”

Earlier this month, the EU court rejected sanctions against a Saudi businessman, Yassin Kadi  the grounds that the EU failed to provide enough evidence that he was involved in terrorist activities. Kadi was put on the list as someone suspected of supporting Osama Bin Laden after 9/11. He contested the EU decision that year.

In Washington such rulings cause much dismay.

“It’s a real concern of ours that the EU is having difficulties sustaining some of its designations,” said David Conen, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

At the crux of the concern is that if Israel feels it no longer has any means of stopping Iran’s entry into the nuclear club, it will attack and possibly ignite a major war in the Middle East. With its allies failing in their commitment to hinder Iran’s existential threats to the beleaguered nation, such a scenario would soon venture into the realm of probability.

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CBS’s Face the Nation last Sunday, “We’ll have to address this question of how to stop Iran, perhaps before the United States does. But as the prime minister of Israel, I’m determined to do whatever is necessary to defend my country, the one and only Jewish state, from a regime that threatens us with renewed annihilation.”

While the Iranian corporations were looking to roll back the sanctions in the EU courts, there was talk of an Iranian proposal to reduce uranium enrichment to 20 percent in exchange for a lifting of some of the sanctions.

Netanyahu also told the panelists that the Islamic Republic was just 60 kilograms short of crossing his “red line”—250 kilograms of enriched uranium, enough for a bomb. He said they now had 190 kg., up from about 110 six to eight months ago and that they were getting “faster centrifuges that would enable them to jump the line at a much faster rate. That is, within a few weeks.”

“I can tell you I won’t wait until it’s too late.” He added that it was “important to understand that we cannot allow it to happen,” and that the Israeli and US clocks on this matter were “ticking at a different pace.”

“We’re closer [to Iran] than the United States,” he said. “We’re more vulnerable. And therefore, we’ll have to address this question of how to stop Iran, perhaps before the United States does. But as the prime minister of Israel, I’m determined to do whatever is necessary to defend my country, the one and only Jewish state, from a regime that threatens us with renewed annihilation....

“I have a sense there’s no sense of urgency,” Netanyahu said. “All the problems that we have [in the region], however important, will be dwarfed by this messianic, apocalyptic, extreme regime that would have atomic bombs. It would make a terrible, catastrophic change for the world and for the United States.”

“We believe that now, more than ever, it is important to stiffen the economic sanctions and present Iran with a credible military option,” he said.

“We are determined to stand firm by our demands [on Iran], which must become the demands of the international community,” he went on. “First, to cease all enrichment. Second, to remove from the country all the enriched uranium. And third, to close the illegal nuclear facility at Qom.”

In the meantime, the judgments against the EU have been put on hold as they move to its Supreme Court.