Category Archives: Sanctions

The World’s First Sanctions Nation: Starvation vs. Bombs……..

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“The U.S. has prepared a list of Turkish entities and individuals to target should it decide to impose sanctions on Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government for imprisoning U.S. citizens and employees of its diplomatic mission, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The lira slid. While negotiations to release one of the people, evangelical Pastor Andrew Brunson, are ongoing, the preparation of the so-called “designation packages” shows how close the U.S. has come to imposing unprecedented penalties against a NATO ally……..”

Turkey is just the last one. It is not only Turkey, hardly that.

Sanctions have become the favorite weapon used by US administrations in the past few decades. They are now more prevalent under Trump than ever before. Other NATO nations will also face sanctions, especially those major allies doing trade and investment deals with the Iranians. Companies from Britain, France, Germany, Italy and other NATO members will face American sanctions.

There is hardly a country in the world where US sanctions are not imposed, either on the whole country, on its officials, or on some of its companies and individuals. Cuba was probably among the earliest ones, and is still a target of sanctions: it was sanctioned long before the Soviet missiles showed up on the island.

Excuses for sanctions/blockades range from repression (for non-allied poorer or non-rich countries only), to support of terrorism (for non-allied poorer countries only), nuclear activity (for non-allied countries that have no nuclear weapons only), an unacceptable regime (for non-allied non-major-trade-partner countries only), to more petty political excuses or other disputes.

Truly this has become the First Sanctions Nation in World History. And it is a bi-partisan policy. But I suppose it is better to squeeze nations, starve them, than bomb them. But yet the bombs keep falling anyway…….

P.S: Some Middle East media, especially pro-Iranian ones,now claim/report that the Trump administration is insisting on a particular candidate to be Iraq‘s prime minister, regardless of his coalition votes. They claim the administration is threatening to “sanction” any Iraqi politician or parties who oppose this US stance.


Mohammed haider Ghuloum

Nuclear Deals: When the Dotard Never Meets the Fat Little Rocket Man……..

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Wrote this rant yesterday, before the anticipated cancellation of the improbable Trump-Kim summit:

Here is my take on the very doubtful summit between Donald Trump and Loren Leader Kim Jong Un
Trump: I’ll guarantee the safety of Kim Jong Un if deal is made….

Kim Jong Un: But what if the US president changes?

Trump: We stand by our deals, no matter who is the president. We, in America, don’t violate our treaties and agreements, especially those sanctioned by the UN Security Council…. Just ask Mike Pompeo……

Kim Jong UN: Bwahahahahahahaha…

Trump: Look, Kimmy, I’ve already had commemorative coins designed, with both of us on them…. I’ve started measurements for my Nobel Peace Prize ceremony suits. Melania has commissioned dresses by Givenchy (great American couturier…. MAGA)…..

Kim Jong UN: What about the Iran Deal? They stopped nuclear work and now you are starving them, maybe going to war against them…

Trump: There is an easy explanation. That was not my deal. Obama’s deal, his fault. He was Kenyan, you know…..

Kim Jong UN: I’m not buying this… give me a better explanation…

Trump: Ever hear of Netanyahu? Adelson? Have you seen all that Saudi and Emirati green? Billions of it for the taking? Evangelicals trying to save wayward Israeli souls before it is too late…….

(Reports this morning say White House is still selling commemorative coins and memorabilia of the cancelled Singapore Summit)


Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Ad Nauseam: Boehner Promises One Iran Bill Every Week…….

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“House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said today that his chamber is ready to take up the Corker-Menendez bill on approval of any Iran deal as soon as the Senate is done with it. Boehner also indicated it may not be the last Iran bill dealing with the negotiations that will come through his chamber. Secretary of State John Kerry and the White House have been lobbying lawmakers ahead of this afternoon’s meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to consider the legislation. They’re also busy at work trying to spread the message that lawmakers just want to kill any Iran deal………….”

That would be the Corker, er, Menendez, er, AIPAC Bill.

My Georgetown source (no, she is not Saudi ambassador Al Jubeir and does not frequent Cafe Milano with Arbabsiar and Mexican drug cartel types) reports the following interesting plan. If pressed by the harried media, which he probably won’t, Boehner will admit that the congressional goal is to speed things up: to introduce one Iran bill each and every week. Congressional bi-partisan carpet bombing of the Iranians (and Obama).
He added that Tom (Cotton?) had originally wanted a bill each and every day. In addition to a new taunting letter sent to Ayatollah Khamenei each and every day. He was talked out of it.

That way, he added, the Iranians may eventually see the light of day and give it up. When asked: what about the Europeans, Russians, Chinese, Indians, etc? Will they not understand the game and give up the sanctions as well in that case? He replied: that is not the script according to Bibi…………..

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Iran, the West, and the Myths of the Crippling Blockade and a Political War……..

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It is now required by law. Every time any media outlet or expert in the United States mentions the Western blockade against Iran, they must add “crippling”. There are no more just “sanctions”, there are only “crippling sanctions“.
No doubt the blockade is hurting Iran, negatively affecting the living standards of the average Iranian. That is why they voted for a reformist during the last election. Too bad there are no effective sanctions against that other power, the only real nuclear power in the Middle East. Then maybe we’ll discover that they also have a reformist strain and vote their whining demagogue out of office. 

Back to Iran. The sanctions are truly hurting Iran. They are not ‘crippling’, not by any measure. That is a myth used in the West and parroted by the media. A crippled country does not grow more powerful and does not extend its regional sphere of influence, and does not allow its people to travel and does not multiply its centrifuges several fold. Not after 35 years of “crippling” sanctions. A ‘crippled’ country does not defy the world powers and withstand serious sustained economic warfare from some of its neighbors.

So forget the ‘crippling sanctions’. Now it has to be either an agreement or a policy of simple containment (forget about this political war that is allegedly still on the table)……….

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Russia: an Economic Barbarossa? Une Grande Armee économique?……….

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Have Yourself a Merry Little——-> Kenny G. Holiday 

Russia Reels” screams the headline in the Huffington Post. With similar headlines in other media. An old headline that goes back to another world…….
You’d think we were back to Barbarossa and June 22, 1941. But perhaps with expectations of different results this time…...

Or perhaps a financial version of La Grande Armee of Napoleon, an economic assault. Which might have better luck, better results this time around, given the interdependence of the world economies.
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Nuclear Delay in Vienna: Read My Lips, No New Sanctions……….

Happy gobblegobble, Charlie Brown……

Read My Lips, No New Sanctions…………” Rouhani? Khamenei? Me?

So, it is to be more jaw-jaw and no new sanctions. Remember that war that was among the options of the mantra of “all options are on the table“? It never was, not seriously.

As it happened, the deadline was extended until next July. That is not necessarily good, especially since Benyamin Netnayahu welcomed it as he waits for the newly-elected U.S. Knesset Congress in January to screw things up. But it is better than posturing and making noises about an unlikely war that few outside Israel and a couple of absolute Arab monarchies and the Islamic Caliphate of ISIS want.

The downside of all that is that we will have to hear more weekly (even daily) whining from Mr. Netanyahu about the imminence of an Iranian nuclear bomb. The one he and some American war pedlars have been predicting for twenty years. An alleged bomb which apparently can destroy only the Jewish people in Tel Aviv and the settlements but miraculously spare all those Muslims/Christians and Holy places in Jerusalem or Nazareth or Hebron.

There is a world dichotomy about these serious but not-very-credible claims. American media usually eats up whatever he dishes out, been doing it for twenty years. After all, he is a celebrity (as in Bibi!). European media is mostly skeptical about him, to put it nicely and politely. Muslim and Arab public opinion is overwhelmingly hostile to whatever he claims, with the exception of some pockets in and around the Persian Gulf royal palaces and possibly the harem rooms of the Wahhabi Caliphate of ISIS.

The game of chess goes on. The coming year should be interesting times, as some Chinese are alleged to have said. And not only in Washington………
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Remember When the Oil Weapon Was Blackmail and Evil?……….

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“Now time has abruptly run out. The Arabs, who control nearly 60% of the world’s proven deposits, are slowing down the flow. Through this strategy of squeeze, they hope to pressure the industrial nations into forcing Israel to make peace on terms favorable to the Arabs. Moreover, they are steadily intensifying their oil shakedown. Originally they planned to reduce production by at least 5% each month. Later they embargoed all oil shipments to the U.S. and The Netherlands, in punishment for their support of Israel. Last week, showing new unity and clout, ten Arab countries announced that production for November will be slashed a minimum of 25% below the September total of 20.5 million bbl. per day. Though there has been promising progress toward a lasting settlement in the Middle East, the Arabs vow that they will continue their cutbacks and embargoes until Israel withdraws behind its 1967 borders………….”

That was during the Yom Kippur War of October 1973. The Arabs, at least the regimes and media, still claim that war was won. Initially the first round of the “Ramadan War” was won, but the military tide had turned decisively before the ceasefire that was engineered by the Nixon administration. But official celebrations and/or commemorations are held in Egypt every year on this occasion, sometime twice a year: once in October and again during the Islamic Hijri month of Ramadan (usually the two don’t coincide, although they did in 1973).
That Arab oil embargo of 1973 was widely denounced as blackmail and evil in Europe and North America. Looking back, the Arabs got a bum rap on that one: it is not the act of blackmail itself, but who does it that makes the difference. Something must have happened since then. Now it is the Western powers that impose oil and gas embargoes: against Russia, Iran, Syria, Iraq (in the past) and others who do not comply. Countries that break any Western embargo or blockade are punished, and embargoed themselves. And it is not blackmail anymore: it is cool now. It is considered as part of a wise clever strategy to “shake down” other countries, just as the Arabs were perceived as “shaking down” the West in 1973. The only difference is that the Western powers have the upper hand now, economically speaking. The shoe is on the other foot. Speaking of change………..
Not all blackmails, or shakedowns, are equal.
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

A Western Addiction to Sanctions? SWIFT-ing the Houthis of Yemen………

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“Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it…….” Newton’s First Law of Motion (one version)

“Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday accused the United States of being “obsessed” with sanctions against his country, on the eve of new bilateral talks on a nuclear deal……….”

Apparently imposing these financial sanctions (actually blockades) can become addictive. Anyone who does not know any better, and that probably includes me, might think that the Obama administration has become addicted to inflicting sanctions on other nations and entities and corporations and whatever and whoever catches its fancy in the wrong way. The U.S. Congress is an even more avid imposer of these sanctions, it leads the way: its hawkish threats scare and force the administration to be “proactive” in these matters.

Governments and despots (only a few of them) and peoples and groups and parties and unions and gangs and possibly bad musicians, probably even alumni associations are targeted. From East Asia through Russia and Iran and Lebanon and Syria and Africa and into the threatening little superpower of Cuba, after passing through the mighty empire of Venezuela. Even as the Iran+P5+1 talks were resuming this summer, some evil genius somewhere in Washington was churning out new plans for tightening the screws on the Iranians. Just to keep the mullahs on their toes, or maybe just to let the hotheads in Congress and Knesset know that they have nothing to worry about.

Yesterday, reports came out that the US (and possibly other Western powers) are considering imposing sanctions against the Houthis of Yemen. The Houthis? They are one of the many tribal/political/ethnic/religious factions that dot the Yemeni landscape. But they have nothing to do with Al Qaeda or any other Wahhabi terrorist groups: in fact they are their enemies. They have no goals beyond their own region of Yemen, so what would they be sanctioned for? Sanctioned for daring to protest against their fundamentalist military government and marching on the capital Sana’a. I would have thought the Western powers had their hands full trying to drone the Saudi-Yemeni Al-Qaeda (AQAP) out of existence (often taking a passel of innocent Yemeni civilians along as collateral damage). Or maybe someone in Washington got a persuasive call from someone with a golden telephone in Riyadh or Abu Dhabi.

Anyway, it is not clear how financial sanctions can affect the Houthis of the rugged territory of northern Yemen. As I recall from my past days of extensive travel, the economies of some remote regions are not very monetized, unlike Washington DC (not so many lobbyists with a lot of money hanging around Sanaa or Ouagadougou). These fellows are not known to fly to Las Vegas or Nice or even Dubai, or to own foreign property. Unlike the petroleum princes and potentates, they do not even frequent the diversion-filled joints of Beirut or Cairo or Bangkok. Unlike the Saudi princes, they never fly into the sin-filled cities of Morocco. So, they don’t have as much need for access to foreign exchange, be it dollars or euros or riyals.

Personally, sometimes I think they impose some of the sanctions jut because they can. The mechanisms and the people are in place, so there is some bureaucratic inertia involved, unless acted upon by an external force, as Isaac Newton taught us so long ago. There are no other world currencies that compete with the dollar, and no institution that can compete with SWIFT. SWIFTing a country or an organization is easy. But the Houthis?

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Human Shield Theory, Axis of Evil Theory, and other Propaganda Tools………

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Yesterday I watched former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on CNN dutifully repeating the usual claim that Hamas is using Gaza civilians as human shield. She was giving the usual bi-partisan spiel, or spin, about the newest Gaza war. But then that is the exact opposite of the spin or spiel we get from Hamas and its supporters.

Usually whatever Mr. Netnayahu claims is initially accepted, before the other side starts its own PR machine. It is taken for granted to be true in most media here, unless otherwise claimed or proven. Apparently Hamas has learned this lesson, a fact that caused a frustrated Netanyahu to grumble recently about “telegenically dead Palestinians“.

I am not sure about the claim that Hamas is deliberately placing rocket launchers amid civilian areas. I doubt it. But it is telling that nobody, not even Arabs, believe that Israel is using its civilians as human shield. That tells me something about certain national perceptions.

So, we are to believe that Palestinians don’t love their own people, their children, and use them as human shield, and that Israelis love their people and don’t use them as human shield.

But hasn’t this same ‘human shield’ story been used against other countries as well? Or the similar idea that some regime, Cuba or Iran, is impoverishing its own people, holding them as human shield, because it invites a Western economic blockade by not succumbing to the will of Western powers? The idea that the countries of an Axis of Evil would use their people as cheap fodder while the Axis of Goodness would not. Some might say that the numbers of war veterans wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq and then neglected by their own countries would refute that.

This “human shield” charge is largely based on Western notions that other peoples do not care for their citizens as much, that human life is cheaper in Palestine than it is, say, on the streets of Chicago on a Saturday night, or in Compton (Calif), or in parts of the Bronx or in Detroit on any night. Which is obviously untrue.

During WWII, the Germans could have claimed that Churchill was using civilians as human shields. And vice versa. And while we are talking old wars and human shields, think of Stalingrad and London under the Blitz.

Stay tuned…………

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum

Ukraine Fallout on an Arizona Gas Station: Union of Sanctioned Pariah States……


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“Even as the crisis in Ukraine continues to defy easy resolution, President Obama and his national security team are looking beyond the immediate conflict to forge a new long-term approach to Russia that applies an updated version of the Cold War strategy of containment. Just as the United States resolved in the aftermath of World War II to counter the Soviet Union and its global ambitions, Mr. Obama is focused on isolating President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia by cutting off its economic and political ties to the outside world, limiting its expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood and effectively making it a pariah state………………”

A pariah state: it sounds ominous. The list is already long and can get longer. Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, etc. Now the mother of all sanctions: a possible creeping economic blockade of the huge Eurasian mass of Russia, with spillover into other countries. Mr. Putin may be excused if someday he makes a famous Reagan-esque speech outside the IMF building, with a great sound bite: “Mr. Obama (or Mrs Clinton or Mr. Bush III) tear down this blockade………” 

Provided he can get a visa to get to the IMF building. And it would be more effective if he could keep his shirt on during that speech.

 blockade against Russia invites blockades against many others, if the Iranian example is to be imitated. Russia is huge; it is still that ‘other’ world (bigger than an Arizona gas station). Many countries, from Asia through Latin America and Africa, and even Europe, will not go along with sanctions against (Mother) Russia. But even if they do, we will have two new definitions of nations. Now we have: First World and Third World, Developed World and Underdeveloped World, Industrial and non-Industrial World (the last one is not as sharp anymore). SCO (Shanghai) countries are highly unlikely to comply. Countries like India and China and Brazil may straddle the two as they are partially blockaded by the “international community”, meaning by the Western powers of North America and Europe. Of course, India and China represent many more people than all of the “international community” of North America and Europe.  

we may have new blocs of nations: Sanctioned or Blockaded Nations and Non-blockaded Nations; Blockading nations and Blockaded Nations, etc. Sounds almost like a new Cold war of “beggar they neighbors across the vast oceans”.