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6th Dec 2019

EU sanctions on Iran peppered with exemptions

  • Tehran market - critics of the sanctions, such as Russia, say they will hurt ordinary people (Photo: kamshots)

New sanctions on Iran could prove hard to enforce after EU countries peppered them with derogations to help Greece find alternate suppliers, to protect trade in non-oil sectors and to give Tehran-based embassies access to cash.

Details of the measures - designed to stop an alleged nuclear weapons programme - came out in the bloc's Official Journal on Tuesday (24 January).

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The sanctions ban buying or shipping of crude oil, petrol and petro-chemical products, as well as supply of financial services, insurance, equipment and training for Iranian energy companies or the buying of new shares in energy firms.

They blacklist the central bank of Iran, the state-owned Bank Tejarat and 10 shipping firms said to be involved in nuclear procurment or the illegal arms trade - Tidewater, Turbine Engineering Manufacturing, Sad Export Import Company, Rosmachin, Behnam Sahriyari Trading Company, Darya Delalan Sefid Khazar Shipping Company, the Dubai-based Oasis Freight Agency, the Germany-based Hanseatic Trade Trust & Shipping and the Malta-registered BIIS Maritime.

They prohibit EU-Iran trade in precious metals and diamonds and supply of newly-made Iranian banknotes and coinage to the central bank. They also say junior members of the Revolutionary Guard corps can in future be targeted, adding three more names to the existing, hundreds-long register.

The EU's legal text allows several temporary and more permanent exemptions, however.

The oil and petroleum ban will not affect existing contracts until 1 July. Contracts on petro-chemcial products are allowed to run until 1 May. Some deals on financial services, equipment and joint ventures will be exempt only if they were signed before 26 July 2010, while others only if before 23 January this year.

Member states can still do business with the central bank if it relates to trade in other areas, such as food or textiles and if they make sure the money does not go to any people on the EU's blacklist - not easy to prove given the opaque nature of the administration.

Gold and diamonds can still be bought and sold on the same terms.

Meanwhile, with several EU countries and international bodies using Bank Tejarat to finance their offices in Tehran, the bank can still handle their money "in so far as such payments are intended to be used for official purposes of the diplomatic or consular mission or international organisation."

Syria sanctions expanded

The EU on Tuesday also published sanctions on eight more firms and 22 people said to be helping Syrian leader Bashar Assad - Iran's main ally in the region - put down the uprising.

Most of the companies - Industrial Bank, Popular Credit Bank, Savings Bank, Agricultural Co-operative Bank, Deir ez-Zur Petroleum Company, Ebla Petroleum Company and Dijla Petroleum Company - are based in Damascus. But one - the Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank - is in UN Security Council member Lebanon.

The 22 people are junior army officers or other security personnel, with the litany of allegations helping to support the Western narrative of state-sponsored mass-murder.

The majority are cited for "[giving] orders to shoot at protesters" or "torture of detainees."

Brigadier general Ahmed Yousef Jarad is said to have authorised "the use of machine guns and anti-aircraft guns" against people in Deraa. Major general Bader Aqel gave orders to "pick up bodies and hand them over" to the secret service, presumably for concealment.

Russia: EU and US want war with Syria

Russia has accused Nato countries of trying to start a war with Syria and foment unrest in Iran - claims backed up by some Western security analysts.

Former CIA officer questions EU motives in Syria

EU and US intervention in Syria is designed to harm Iran and to protect Israel and Lebanese Christians, not Syrian people, according to Robert Baer, a retired CIA officer with experience of the region.

EU points to oil reserves after Iran threat

The European Commission has noted that "there is a lot of oil around" inside reserves in EU countries even if Iran makes good on threats to stop shipments next week.

EU sanctions not as tough as they sound

The EU is to add some 160 names to its Belarus and Syria blacklists later this month. But being put under an EU ban is not as categorical as it sounds.

Iran stops oil sale to France and UK

Iran stopped oil exports to the UK and France on Sunday in what is seen as a pre-emptive move ahead of the EU’s sanctions against the regime.

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