US rejects French request for Iran exemptions as reinsurer pulls out

Europe needs to react quickly and protect its economic sovereignty, says French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. FIle/Reuters
Updated 14 July 2018
0

US rejects French request for Iran exemptions as reinsurer pulls out

  • Tehran’s support for Assad regime key item at Monday’s Trump-Putin summit
  • Most international insurers in Iran are working with the shipping and energy industries in the country

PARIS: The US has rejected a French request for waivers for its companies operating in Iran that Paris sought after President Donald Trump imposed sanctions on the country, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Le Figaro.

Paris had singled out key areas where it expected either exemptions or extended wind-down periods for French companies, including energy, banking, pharmaceuticals and automotive.
Officials had expressed little hope for securing the waivers, which were critical for oil and gas major Total to continue a multibillion-dollar gas project in Iran and for carmaker PSA Group to pursue its joint venture.
French reinsurer Scor SE said on Friday it will not seek new contracts or renew existing business in Iran, given the US sanctions.
Most international insurers in Iran are working with the shipping and energy industries in the country.
“We have just received Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s response: It’s negative,” Le Maire told Le Figaro in an interview published on Friday.
Le Maire said Europe needed to react quickly and protect its economic sovereignty.
“Europe must provide itself with the tools it needs to defend itself against extra-territorial sanctions,” Le Maire added.
Washington announced in May it was imposing new economic penalties on Tehran after pulling out of a multilateral 2015 agreement, under which Tehran had agreed to curb its nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief.
Trump’s sanctions are aimed at pressuring Iran to negotiate a new agreement to halt its nuclear programs that might include Tehran’s regional activities and ballistics development. In particular, Washington wants to curtail the oil exports that are key to Iran’s economic revival.

Strategic objective
Earlier this month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appeared to threaten to disrupt oil shipments from its neighbors if Washington pressed ahead with trying to force countries to stop buying Iranian oil.
As fighting in Syria wanes after seven years of war, the US has made curtailing Iran’s influence in post-war Syria a strategic objective.
When Trump meets Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Monday, the Syrian conflict will be one of the most immediately pressing issues on a wide-ranging and colorful agenda.
A full withdrawal of Iranian-backed forces from Syria is a virtual non-starter.
After years of ruinous civil war, Iran and its proxy militias, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, have built up a formidable presence stretching from the Iraqi border through central Syria to Lebanon.
President Bashar Assad, with crucial military and political assistance from Iran and Russia, has recaptured around 60 percent of the country, including its main cities, putting an end to any serious talk of regime change in Damascus. And, amid a consistently declining US role, Russia has emerged as an uncontested power broker in the country.
Still, both Russia and the US have an interest in working together in Syria and beyond, and while Russia and Iran have been on the same side of the war, their interests do not always converge.
Russia also has maintained warm ties with Israel and has demonstrated a readiness to take the Jewish state’s security interests into account.


Myanmar army should be removed from politics: UN probe

Updated 18 September 2018
0

Myanmar army should be removed from politics: UN probe

  • The report says an estimated 10,000 people were killed in the crackdown and that was likely a conservative figure
  • Investigators said the Tatmadaw should be restructured and the process should begin by replacing the current leadership

YANGON: Myanmar’s powerful army should be removed from politics, UN investigators said Tuesday in the final version of a damning report reiterating calls for top generals to be prosecuted for genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
A brutal military crackdown last year forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee over the border to Bangladesh. Demands have mounted for those who waged the campaign to face justice.
The UN’s 444-page probe is the most meticulous breakdown of the violence to date. It says the military’s top leadership should be overhauled and have no further influence over the country’s governance.
Myanmar’s military dominates the Buddhist-majority nation, holding a quarter of seats in parliament and controlling three ministries, making their grip on power firm despite political reforms which began in 2011.
But the report said the country’s civilian leadership “should further pursue the removal of the Tatmadaw from Myanmar’s political life,” referring to the nation’s armed forces.
The UN’s analysis, based on 18 months’ work and more than 850 in-depth interviews, urges the international community to investigate the military top brass for genocide, including commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing.
Myanmar’s army has denied nearly all wrongdoing, insisting its campaign was justified to root out Rohingya insurgents who staged deadly raids on border posts in August 2017.
But the UN team said the military’s tactics had been “consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats.”
The report says an estimated 10,000 people were killed in the crackdown and that was likely a conservative figure.
Investigators said the Tatmadaw should be restructured and the process should begin by replacing the current leadership.
Myanmar only recently emerged from almost a half century of military junta rule and Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically-elected government remains in a delicate power balance with the generals.
Their presence in parliament gives them an effective veto on constitutional changes, making any transition to full civilian control extremely difficult.
Three key ministries -– home affairs, border and defense –- are also in their hands, giving them carte blanche to conduct security operations with little oversight.
“It is impossible to remove the army out of political life without changing the constitution, and the military have a veto over constitutional changes,” Mark Farmaner, from Burma Campaign UK, told AFP.
The UN team said there were reasonable grounds to believe that the atrocities — including systematic murder, rape, torture and arson -– were committed with the intention of destroying the stateless Rohingya, warranting the charges of genocide.
The mission, created by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017, did not focus its sights entirely on the army.
It directed specific criticism at Suu Kyi, whose global reputation has been shattered by her failure to speak up for the Rohingya against the military.
While acknowledging that the civilian authorities have little influence over military actions, the report said that their “acts and omissions” had “contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes.”
Pointing to “deeply entrenched” impunity in Myanmar, the investigators said the only chance to obtain accountability was through the international justice system.
They also pointed to failings of the UN’s office within Myanmar, alleging that “quiet diplomacy” was prioritized and that those who tried to push the UN’s Human Rights Up Front approach were “ignored, criticized, sidelined or blocked in these efforts.”
The independent UN team will present its findings to member states of the Human Rights Council in Geneva later on Tuesday, after which Myanmar will have a chance to respond to the allegations.
It also repeated suggestions that crimes against the Rohingya be referred to the International Criminal Court, which concluded in August that it had jurisdiction to investigate even though Myanmar is not a member of the treaty underpinning the tribunal.
Myanmar has dismissed the tribunal’s authority and analysts have pointed to the court’s lack of enforcement powers.
The investigators also recommended an arms embargo and “targeted individual sanctions against those who appear to be most responsible.”