Eye on Iran: U.S. Arrests Turkish Businessman Accused of Evading Iran Sanctions

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Reuters: "An Iranian-born Turkish businessman has been arrested in Florida on charges that he and others conspired to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars in financial transactions for the Iranian government or other entities to evade U.S. sanctions. Reza Zarrab, 33, was charged in an indictment filed in federal court in Manhattan along with one of his employees, Kamelia Jamshidy, and Hossein Najafzadeh, a senior officer at a unit of Bank Mellat in Iran, U.S. prosecutors said on Monday. Zarrab was arrested on Saturday in Miami and appeared in federal court there on Monday, where a federal magistrate judge ordered him detained. Both Jamshidy and Najafzadeh, who are both Iranian nationals, remained at large... Zarrab previously attracted attention when he was detained for two months in Turkey, beginning in 2013, without charges as part of a high-profile corruption probe. According to the U.S. indictment, Zarrab, a dual citizen of Turkey and Iran, owned and operated a network of companies in Turkey and in the United Arab Emirates, including Royal Holding A.S., which employed Jamshidy. The indictment said Zarrab, Jamshidy and Najafzadeh, a senior officer at Bank Mellat's Mellat Exchange, conspired to thwart economic sanctions against Iran by concealing transactions benefiting Iran's government and Iranian entities. Prosecutors said that from 2010 to 2015, the trio helped Iranian individuals and entities, including Bank Mellat, one of the largest banks in Iran, evade U.S. sanctions by conducting financial transactions through Turkish and Emirati companies. The indictment charges Zarrab, Jamshidy, 29, and Najafzadeh, 65, with engaging in conspiracies to defraud the United States, to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, to commit bank fraud and to commit money laundering." http://t.uani.com/1Ri0zx8

Reuters: "A senior member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards urged the government on Tuesday to follow its supreme leader's vision for a self-reliant economy and said the Guards wanted to play a bigger role to make that happen. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's most powerful figure, called for a 'resistance economy' on Sunday, saying U.S. policies to restrict business with Iran had undermined any economic benefits of international sanctions being lifted in January. His comments presented a challenge to President Hassan Rouhani, the chief architect of last year's nuclear deal that led to sanctions relief, who has tried since that accord to attract foreign investment and open Iran's markets. 'The main audience for (Khamenei's concept of) the resistance economy is the government,' Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, deputy joint chief of staff of the armed forces was quoted as saying by Fars news agency. Jazayeri is a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a powerful faction that controls a business empire as well as elite armed forces. Its economic interests could be threatened by increased competition from abroad. 'The armed forces are ready to play a significant role in the resistance economy and implementing the supreme leader's suggestions,' he said. Jazayeri added that Rouhani should see the Guards' achievements in creating advanced ballistic missiles as an economic blueprint and evidence that Iran did not need foreign investment to succeed. Any increase in the IRGC's economic footprint could make Iran a riskier market for foreign investors, as many of its members and front companies remain under U.S. sanctions on Iran's defense industries and alleged support for what Washington sees as 'acts of terrorism.'" http://t.uani.com/1RdnZqU

Handelsblatt: "'A lot of companies thought that after the nuclear deal, the risk of doing business with Iran was minimal,' said Mark Hibbs, senior associate in Carnegie's Nuclear Policy Program. 'Many of the sanctions remain in place, however.' Blocked Hermes credits are another complicating factor, due to unpaid bills. These are export credit guarantees given by the German government. Under the guarantees, if exporters' partners don't pay, their business will be covered. Currently, Iran owes €500 million in unpaid Hermes bills, Mr. Hibbs said, adding he expects the governments to resolve this issue but that it is an additional hurdle to business until the credits are available again. 'That's a separate issue but a direct, real-time issue, it's more immediate for companies that are interested in doing business in Iran,' he said. Companies have also found that a much larger share of the economy is run by the IRGC, Iran's military security organization, than previously thought, Mr. Hibbs noted. Some have claimed that as much as 80 percent of the economy is run by IRGC-related enterprises. Another factor is reporting requirements. German companies doing business in Iran and in the United States have disclosure obligations that some of the companies can't meet. They have to provide details of financial transactions for transparency but many exporting companies found it 'extremely difficult to get solid information about creditworthiness and the risks of doing business,' Mr. Hibbs said. He noted that at a meeting of smaller and mid-sized companies from Germany, many said they feared negative publicity and the possible effects on their business. 'If Iran is portrayed as a rogue state, that could hurt their reputations,' he said. 'As a German company, we're under no illusions: Regular business will only start after U.S. banks begin dealing with Iran again,' Martin Herrenknecht, chief executive of a tunnel drilling company of the same name, told Handelsblatt. 'Then the German banks follow suit.'" http://t.uani.com/21FlwqL

U.S.-Iran Relations

IranWire: "Yesterday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sharply criticized the policies of President Hassan Rouhani in his speech marking the Iranian New Year, or Nowruz. Speaking in his hometown, the northeastern shrine city of Mashhad, Khamenei said Rouhani's policies were 'injecting' the American way of thinking into Iranian society. Earlier, Rouhani had released his own Nowruz message, in which he had called Iran's parliamentary elections of February 26, and the relative victory of moderate and reformist candidates that day, 'JCPOA 2,' -- in other words, a victory on the scale of last year's nuclear agreement. Borrowing from the acronym 'Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action' he said, 'it is the same Joint National Action inside the country that will start with unity, reconciliation and empathy.' Khamenei objected. 'The American policy requires that Iranians believe that we are facing a stark choice: Either compromise with the US, or continue to suffer pressures,' he said. Without naming names, Khamenei added that there are those who say that Iran needs 'JCPOA 2, 3 and 4' for the people to live comfortably, and who wrongly believe that economic problems will only be solved by negotiations with the US, and by retreating from 'our positions' and 'our red lines.' Khamenei also criticized the Obama administration, and expressed dissatisfaction with the implementation of the nuclear deal. 'The American Treasury Secretary,' he said, 'is working day and night to prevent Iran from benefitting from the results of JCPOA.' Khamenei also hit out at President Barack Obama's yearly New Year's greetings to Iranians. 'They sent a Nowruz message and expressed sympathy for us and for our young people,' Khamenei said, but insisted that the White House's yearly tradition of Nowruz festivities was an attempt at 'fooling the children.' Khamenei also criticized the Rouhani government's approach to sanctions. He said that both the consequences of sanctions and the lifting of sanctions have been blown out of proportion. He said the nuclear agreement had crossed certain 'red lines,' and that the US did not keep its promises. 'We can see these with our own eyes,' he said. 'This is a net loss.' ... As before, Khamenei called America 'the enemy' and said that this enemy wants the Islamic Republic to change its nature before it can be left in peace... Khamenei's speech amounted both to a sharp attack on Rouhani's economic and foreign policies, and an attempt to dispel any hope of further negotiations with the US over issues other than Iran's nuclear program. 'America is our enemy for obvious reasons,' he said. 'The US presidential elections will start in a few months, and the government will change in nine months. There are no guarantees that the next government will honor even these few commitments. The American presidential candidates are now in a competition to malign Iran. When we say that America is the enemy, some people don't like it, but this is what enmity is.' He listed 'Iranophobic propaganda,' 'infiltration' and sanctions as tools used the US uses against Iran." http://t.uani.com/1LDSJB2

Congressional Action

Al-Monitor: "Senate Republicans have run out of patience with Iran's defiance of its international obligations, setting up a possible partisan showdown over new sanctions. Hawkish lawmakers introduced two bills late last week that take aim at Iran's ballistic missile program and alleged human rights violations. Both bills have been endorsed by the Senate leadership, which is evidently tired of waiting on a long-rumored bipartisan alternative that has so far failed to materialize. 'Today I have led an effort in the Senate to introduce legislation that would require the administration to impose tough, hard-hitting primary and secondary sanctions on every sector of the Iranian economy that supports Tehran's ballistic missile programs,' the missile sanctions bill's sponsor, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said in a statement. 'Tough words alone will not deter the world's worst state sponsor of terrorism from continuing to develop its ballistic missile program, and I call on my colleagues in Congress, as well as the administration, to pass this legislation and impose without delay the strongest possible sanctions in order to hold Tehran accountable.' The legislative push comes as the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee continue to try to thread the needle on efforts to hold Iran to account without imperiling last year's nuclear deal. Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and ranking member Ben Cardin, D-Md., issued a joint statement soon after the two bills were introduced to reaffirm their determination to strike a bipartisan compromise that can attract enough support to pass the Senate and overcome a possible presidential veto... Still, Corker is also showing signs of impatience." http://t.uani.com/1PoWzJc

AP: "House Speaker Paul Ryan hammered the Obama administration on Monday for the nuclear deal with Iran, telling America's leading pro-Israel group that the agreement legitimized Iran's nuclear program instead of dismantling it... 'I think it was a terrible deal. Worst in our lifetime,' Ryan said. 'Iran got billions of dollars in sanctions relief, and in exchange for what? For taking apart some - not all, just some - of its nuclear program.' GOP lawmakers also have criticized President Barack Obama for failing to properly punish Iran for repeatedly defying a U.N. ballistic missile test ban. A group of Republican senators last week introduced legislation to impose stricter sanctions on every sector of Iran's economy that supports the country's ballistic missile program. 'I don't think it's an accident that every few months we hear of Iran launching yet more ballistic missiles,' Ryan said. He said the United States needs to shore up its alliance with Israel, which includes countering Iran's 'aggression in Lebanon, in Yemen and in Syria.'" http://t.uani.com/21FgtGQ

Sanctions Enforcement

AFP: "Vice President Joe Biden warned Sunday that the United States is watching Iran 'like a hawk' to ensure compliance with the landmark nuclear deal... 'The incentives are aligned for Iran to uphold its side of the deal. We're watching Tehran like a hawk,' Biden said. 'Under this deal, Iran would never be allowed to pursue nuclear weapons, never, never, never,' he told the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobby group. 'If Iran violates the deal, the United States will act,' Biden pledged." http://t.uani.com/1Rx5RdG

Business Risk

Bloomberg: "Iran will receive only a fraction of the $500 billion it needs to modernize its infrastructure because foreign banks are still unwilling to risk penalties from the U.S. Treasury, a major domestic construction company said. 'The projects are there, they are all ready, but the problem is we need more help from the West,' Maryam Kiaie, business development director at Tehran-based Rah Shahr International Group, said in an interview. 'I don't see any big banks coming here in the next five years.' Rah Shahr is involved in projects worth about $200 billion, including the master-plan for the second terminal at the $50 billion Imam Khomeini Airport City project near Tehran, Kiaie said. Plans to develop free-trade zones, including the expansion of Bandar-e Anzali on the Caspian Sea to boost Russia's access to Iranian markets, will need approximately $240 billion... Iranian companies are getting frustrated at the slow progress in securing overseas financing, despite a flurry of foreign delegations arriving in Tehran to sign memorandums of understanding, according to Kiaie. Foreign investors will probably limit their exposure to small projects of up to $100 million until they become more confident of the legality of investing in Iran, she said. 'Most of the transactions and the project valuations are in U.S. dollars, and European companies don't know how or where to receive this money when it comes to Iran,' Kiaie said. 'And as soon as a single U.S. dollar from Iran lands in their bank accounts, it's sanctioned.' The legacy of punishments on banks found to have dealt with Iran while the country was subject to sanctions still lingers. As a result, major projects will take longer to get started, said Joanna Addison, a projects partner at law firm Herbert Smith Freehills in Doha. While 'every single major client' is interested in entering Iran, the lack of assurances from the U.S. Treasury about doing business there is 'creating a lot of uncertainty,' Addison said in an interview. 'There's an environment of ambiguity.'" http://t.uani.com/1PoUo8w

Sanctions Relief

Reuters: "Flagship private shipping insurance group, the International P&I Club, has raised the default insurance coverage for tankers transporting Iranian oil to $580 million per ship from $80 million, the Japan P&I Club said on Tuesday. The International P&I Club has been unable to extend normal liability coverage of $7.8 billion per ship to vessels transporting Iranian oil because the U.S. Treasury Department has left sanctions in place pertaining to insurance. That has prevented U.S. insurers from providing coverage... To meet the shortfall in U.S. insurance coverage, the international P&I Club has created a 'fall-back' of $500 million additional coverage per ship for Iranian oil at no extra cost to the members, the Japan P&I Club said in a statement. Although $580 million coverage is still less than 10 percent of the normal liability coverage, Asian shippers such as China, India and South Korea and some shippers in Europe may find that enough to transport Iranian oil, an official with Japan P&I Club said on Tuesday. Japanese shippers, however, are more risk-averse and may continue to use the government's special sovereign shipping insurance to import Iranian oil until normal P&I coverage becomes available again, industry officials have said." http://t.uani.com/21FegLA

CNBC: "One of Iran's main shipping companies resumed trading with the West this week after six years, but the Islamic country is still far from being reaccepted by the international community, warns an expert. The Azargoun, which belongs to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines and can carry 2,500 standard shipping containers, arrived in Hamburg earlier this week. It marked the reopening of the European Container Line between Iran and Europe, which was suspended in 2010 due to sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe... 'We are still pretty far away from full normalization,' Torbjorn Soltvedt, head of MENA at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, to CNBC via phone. 'What we are seeing is the start of the reintegration of Iran back into the global economy to some extent. But at the same time, you are not really seeing any sort of great influx of investment into Iran yet.' Soltvedt said Verisk Maplecroft does not expect a mass influx of investment into Iran in the short term because of risks in the country and the remains of the sanctions regime... 'The most important part of that is probably the pretty substantial list of entities that are still blacklisted by the U.S. government for which secondary sanctions still apply,' explained Soltvedt. 'For companies looking to invest in Iran it's a really complex task to try and unravel the web of subsidiaries and associated companies that are linked to blacklisted companies.'" http://t.uani.com/1S3p40U

Regional Destabilization

JPost: "General Saeed Qasemi, a Revolutionary Guards commander and the commander of Ansar Hezbollah, a paramilitary conservative Islamic group in Iran, has demanded that Iran annex Bahrain, the Revolutionary Guard-affiliated news agency Tasnim reported Sunday. Speaking at a forum in the city of Bushehr, Qasemi urged the annexation of Bahrain to Iran, explaining that 'Bahrain is an Iranian province that was detached from the Islamic Republic of Iran due to the Western colonialism.' 'Iran must make efforts to bring Bahrain back into Iranian territory and transform it into a part of Bushehr province,' Qasemi further stated. General Qasemi was a senior commander during the Iran-Iraq war that erupted in September 1980, and is also considered a crony of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Similar declarations regarding the dire need to annex Bahrain to Iran are recurrently voiced by senior Iranian officials." http://t.uani.com/1UhUOG2

Domestic Politics

Al-Monitor: "Every year, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses Iranians from the holy city of Mashhad for his Nowruz message. He discusses the main issues of the country, both domestically and internationally, and designates a slogan for the upcoming year. Khamenei designated this year as the year of the 'Resistance Economy: Action and Implementation.' he 'resistance economy' is a term that first came into popular use in 2014. In short, it is an economic policy that stresses a focus on domestic production, promoting a knowledge-based economy and reducing vulnerability on oil and gas exports. After the speech, Khamenei's website published '10 fundamental actions for rescuing the country's economy.' The 10 steps, which were presented in chart form, listed such things as 'resurrect domestic production, avoid exports that weaken domestic production, not waste money that enters the country after the nuclear deal, make sensitive and important sectors [oil, gas, airplane, train and ship manufacturing] knowledge based, make the transfer of technology a condition of foreign trade, seriously fight against corruption and give special attention to medium and small industries.' ... If Rouhani is not able to improve the economy in the new year, based on Khamenei's speech and the subsequent commentary, it seems that the pressure on his administration will be increased dramatically." http://t.uani.com/1UhW0sR

Opinion & Analysis

WSJ Editorial: "The Iranian nuclear deal is barely six months old and already Tehran has repeatedly tested ballistic missiles capable of delivering atomic warheads. So it's encouraging to see that U.S. Senate Republicans have introduced legislation designed to confront Iran on its belligerent behavior. The Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act of 2016 would impose new sanctions on the Islamic Republic's ballistic-missile developers. The Senate bill, introduced late last week by New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte, targets firms that help Tehran acquire dual-use technologies or otherwise support its missile program. As the Foundation for Defense of Democracies notes in a recent report, Tehran's ballistic-missile program is deeply intertwined with Iran's legitimate economy, including the automotive, energy, construction and mining industries. Countering the missiles, the FDD says, requires 'economic sanctions against all sectors involved in their development.' Ms. Ayotte's unilateral U.S. sanctions are a good start, since the path to international sanctions is closed for now. Iranian negotiators succeeded in excluding limits on ballistic missiles from the nuclear deal itself, but United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 'calls upon' Tehran not to build or test missiles for eight years. Iran has used that weak language as a legal loophole, and Russia has made it clear that it takes Tehran's side. Russia has a veto on the Council, and all the Obama Administration has done so far is to sanction a handful of people and entities in response to an earlier round of Iranian missile tests. A parallel bill sponsored by Sen. Mark Kirk and 15 other Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, targets Iran's destabilizing actions in the region and human-rights violations at home. The bill would impose U.S. sanctions on any business in which the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps holds a 25% or larger stake, as well as the directors of such firms. The bill specifically targets Mahan Air, an Iranian passenger airline that provides logistical assistance to the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah in Syria, according to the U.S. Treasury. Mr. Obama will likely oppose the measures. Maryland's Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Committee Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee said in a joint statement on Friday that they're working on bipartisan sanctions. The Ayotte-Kirk measures should be the starting point. Unilateral U.S. sanctions are a weak substitute for binding international sanctions. But the effort sends a message that not everyone is as forgiving of the Iranians as Mr. Obama." http://t.uani.com/1T5beQG

WSJ Editorial: "Two weeks. That's how long it took the Obama Administration to back down from its rare decision to sanction a Chinese company for illicit ties to a rogue regime, in this case telecom giant ZTE scheming to export U.S. technology to Iran. China's other bad actors-cyberthieves, weapons proliferators, crooked bankers for North Korea-must be pleased. The U.S. Commerce Department initially blasted ZTE on March 7 for acting 'contrary to the national security and foreign policy of the United States' by designing shell companies 'to illicitly re-export controlled items to Iran in violation of U.S. export control laws.' As punishment, U.S. and foreign firms were barred from transferring U.S. technology to ZTE without a special license that officials promised to deny. With a significant share of ZTE's supply chain reliant on U.S. hardware and software, this looked like a penalty with teeth. No longer. 'As part of the effort to resolve the matter, and based upon binding commitments that ZTE has made to the U.S. government, Commerce expects this week to be able to provide temporary relief from some licensing requirements,' an unnamed senior Commerce official told the Journal Sunday, crediting ZTE with being 'active' and 'constructive' in talks. This is some turnabout, especially given some of the questions raised by the initial U.S. move. Internal ZTE memos released by U.S. investigators not only detail ZTE work in Iran, Sudan, North Korea, Syria and Cuba." http://t.uani.com/1RhTBsd

Mehdi Khalaji in WINEP: "In his twenty-sixth Nowruz speech in Mashhad, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated his radical anti-American position and implicitly criticized Iran's nuclear negotiating team for violating some of his redlines and giving in to U.S. pressure. He also indirectly criticized President Hassan Rouhani, who has been referring to Iran's latest elections as 'JCPOA 2' in order to point out the transformative implications of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed with the P5+1 last year. Khamenei characterized such rhetoric as a U.S. plot to inject the idea of political change into the minds of Iranian elites and, by extension, the general citizenry. Moreover, his declared motto for the new Persian year -- 'The Resistance Economy: Initiation and Action' -- signals that he will make Rouhani's economic agenda a target for extraordinary scrutiny and criticism from hardliners... While it is by no means certain that Ayatollah Khamenei will force Iran to stop complying with the nuclear deal in the near future, his latest speech could pave the way toward justifying such a move, particularly if Iranian authorities are already weighing the costs and benefits of walking away from the JCPOA. First, by directly quoting Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Supreme Leader essentially accused him -- and, by extension, President Rouhani -- of crossing the regime's redlines in the negotiations. Second, he argued that the United States is not complying with the JCPOA, asserted that sanctions would not have been as harmful as Rouhani and his supporters have claimed, and declared that the only way to neutralize the sanctions threat is to avoid compromise with the United States and enhance the resistance economy. In his view, the ultimate aim of negotiations and agreements is to transform the Islamic Republic's nature and allow the United States to impose its will on Iran. To be sure, many of these elements -- vociferously criticizing the notion of compromise with the United States, accusing Washington of seeking regime change, turning against Iranian presidents, and calling for a resistance economy -- are nothing new for Khamenei. Yet his latest accusations show a particularly strong and vocal distaste for the Rouhani government's efforts on nuclear and economic issues, which likely means that he will no longer give the president license to pursue a more conciliatory agenda at home or abroad. Rouhani frequently uses the term 'JCPOA 2' to refer to change on nonnuclear issues as a result of his success in the nuclear negotiations; in fact, he used it a few hours before Khamenei's speech in his own Nowruz message, referring to last month's elections as 'JCPOA 2.' Such open conflict with the Supreme Leader's positions will make the lead-up to the June 2017 presidential election very difficult for Rouhani. Hardliners will interpret Khamenei's speech as another green light to escalate their attacks on the president, mainly by intensifying their criticism of the JCPOA, accusing Rouhani's team of naivete or incompetence in implementing the resistance economy, and creating various problems for the government in different fields in order to shrink Rouhani's social power base." http://t.uani.com/1RgJq9i

Saeed Ghasseminejad in TNI: "The legendary cleric Abbas Vaez Tabasi died this month after thirty-seven years supervising Astan Quds Razavi-the trust that maintains the iconic Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad-and as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's representative in the surrounding Khorasan province. Last week Khamenei appointed Ebrahim Raeesi to replace him in the former position, and Ahmad Alamolhoda, Raeesi's father-in-law, as the latter. Both replacements come from the ranks of Iran's most radical hardliners, and their appointment guarantees that the windfall from last summer's nuclear deal will primarily benefit the Islamic Republic's most extreme, reactionary forces... Khamenei's choice for Tabasi's two replacements are clear signs that while the radicals might have lost a few seats in last month's parliamentary election, they are consolidating their grip over crucial levers of Iran's economy and remain those best poised to reap the bonanza that the nuclear agreement will soon yield. Those hoping that the deal will embolden moderates in the Islamic Republic will again be sorely disappointed." http://t.uani.com/1px4Pl8

Shadi Sadr in HuffPost: "Last week, while the EU foreign ministers were getting together to discuss how they can pursue an agreement on trade with Iran, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran announced that almost 1000 people were executed in Iran last year; the highest number of using death penalty per capita in the World. However, the astonishing number of executions as well as deterioration of the situation of journalists, human rights defenders, political prisoners and Baha'i citizens did not seem to concern the EU diplomats at all. As the Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, cheered the beginning of the EU's new journey with Iran towards signing billions of Euros-worth of deals in a range of sectors, the EU policy on Iran's human rights shifted dramatically but quietly... The chart below shows how the number of EU public statements on the situation of human rights in Iran have plummeted over the past two years. Whereas in 2011 there were 18 public statements over issues such as death penalty, political prisoners, religious persecution and access to information, this number has been reduced to only one statement in 2014 on death penalty... One example amongst many is that in 2011, the EU High Representative expressed serious concerns over the wave of arrests of Baha'i citizens. Last month, 24 Baha'i citizens were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment ranging from 5 to 11 years but the EU chose to remain silent on this issue. The impact of the policy shift on restrictive measures has been even worse. Not only one single name has not been added to the list of human rights sanctions, but also in April 2015, the EU Council removed the names of two individuals without providing any reason or justification. More outrageously, European ministries of foreign affairs which used to ask NGOs like Justice for Iran to submit proposals to add new names to the list of human rights violators; is now increasingly asking for the name of those who should be delisted. Therefore, it is quite feasible that this year in April, when the EU Council is supposed to revise the human rights sanctions list, many more perpetrators who have been involved in serious human rights abuses, will be delisted. It will be coincident with the planned visit of the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to Tehran who, unlike her predecessors, has been completely silent on Iran's human rights record... While the expedition of financial deals is submerging using human rights tools, the trust between the EU and the victims and survivors of violations will become lost unless the EU reaffirms its stand on promoting universal rules of human rights. Until then, deeply affected by the confusing and contradictory messages sent by the EU on human rights those distressing questions about the integrity of the EU policy on human rights will remain." http://t.uani.com/1ZolVhO

Eman El-Shenawi in Al Arabiya: "Exclusively-obtained US court documents have exposed a link between Iran and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The documents, published this week by pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, revealed that a New York District Court ordered Iran to pay more than $10.5 billion in damages to families of people killed in the attacks and to a group of insurers. According to the newspaper, 'allegations were built on information collected by military men who conducted interrogations with US detainees on Iranian affiliation with al-Qaeda.' The evidence from six court documents obtained by the newspaper points to Iran and Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah as being involved 'firsthand' in the 9/11 terrorist attacks that killed thousands of US citizens. Judge George Daniels found that Iran had failed to defend claims that it aided the Sept. 11 hijackers and was therefore liable for damages tied to the attacks, according to Bloomberg. Daniels condemned Iran for facilitating the execution of the terrorist attacks that hit both New York and Washington. The lawsuit detailed 274 instances of Iran's alleged role in terror-funding and its cooperation with terror organizations such as al-Qaeda. The trial revealed that bin Laden, current leader of al-Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri, Hezbollah's Imad Mughniyeh - assassinated in 2008 - and other Iranian attaches had met in Sudan to establish an alliance supporting terrorism. Asharq al-Awsat reported that 'al-Qaeda persistently had a supporting lifeline provided by the Iranian government, which also provided the terrorist organization - according to the documents - with both financial backing and a safe haven to terrorist top leaders after the September 11 attacks.' The report added that six Iranian individuals and entities were accused in the case, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, former Iranian intelligence minister Ali Fallahian, deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Brig. Gen. Mohammed Baqir tho al-Qader. Alongside the individuals, the administrational bodies among the accused were the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence, the IRGC and its special operations division, the Quds Force. The documents revealed that calls supervised by Iranian homeland security were made with al-Qaeda and that by the mid-1990s 'all Iranian intelligence heads were in direct contact with al-Qaeda.' A Tunisian man named Tariq al-Sharabi was mentioned in the court files, stating he was arrested in Italy during April, 2001 for affiliation with al-Qaeda. But prior to his arrest, Sharabi was allegedly offered by an 'al-Qaeda agent' a 'rat route' transfer through Iran. 'The terror travel agent reassured Sharabi that al-Qaeda is in effective cooperation with Iranians, and that they have established an off-shoot in Iran which is taking care of transferring terrorists across borders,' Asharq al-Awsat reported, citing the court files. Another name mentioned in the documents was Ramzi bin al-Shibh, believed by the US as being a 'key facilitator' for the September 11 attacks. Military prosecutors have previously said Shibh, currently detained in Guantanamo Bay, relayed money and messages to 9/11 hijackers. The court documents reveal that Shibh had met Mohamed Atta, one of the ringleaders and hijackers in the attacks earlier in 2001. 'The two, Shibh and Atta, traveled to Afghanistan together to present the then alive Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri with a report on operational progress,' Asharq al-Awsat reported, adding that Shibh made a stop in Iran, while Atta carried on his way to Afghanistan. In 2012, reports by the US State and Treasury Departments revealed that Iran had been providing refuge to al-Qaeda leaders and assisting them both logistically and financially. In October of that year, the Treasury froze the assets of a key member of an al-Qaeda network operating in Iran - Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi - for 'supporting terrorist activities in South Asia and the Middle East.' Simultaneously, the Department of State authorized a reward of up to $7 million for information leading to the location of Iran-based senior facilitator and financier Muhsin al-Fadhli and up to $5 million for information leading to the location of his deputy, Harbi. Commenting on the recently-obtained court documents, Middle East political scientist Dr. Joseph A. Kéchichian said Iran's links to al-Qaeda have long been known by the American intelligence community. 'American intelligence was aware of the fact that several al-Qaeda leadership level people were in fact going in and out of Iran, and that some may have even received assistance,' Dr. Kéchichian told Al Arabiya News on Saturday." http://t.uani.com/25iK7WZ