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News | EU Sets Severe New Sanctions; Iran Officially Rejects UN Rights Report

by DAN GEIST

16 Oct 2012 04:33Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Any views expressed are the authors' own. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

SanctionsMoodJameJam.jpgEconomic Pressure of the Day

EU tightens sanction screws on Iran, but gas embargo merely symbolic

European Union foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg Tuesday agreed to a set of punitive new economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic, aimed at forcing it to make major concessions on its nuclear program. Reuters surveys the host of restrictions involved in what the news agency characterizes as a "general ban on financial transactions":

Reversing existing policy, the ban will require European traders to ask governments for authorization before they can finance transactions in permitted goods. Previously, the EU broadly allowed trade unless goods were specifically banned. [...]

Trade will be hampered further by a new ban on European governments extending short-term trade guarantees, and by tougher restrictions on dealings with the Iranian central bank.

Other new measures include a ban on importing Iranian gas to Europe or providing any financing or transport of gas sales, as well as a prohibition on exporting graphite -- used in steel-making -- and metals to the Islamic Republic.

European companies will also be banned from providing storage or transport vessels for Iranian crude or petrochemical products, and from supporting Iranian ship-building.

While Iran's proven natural gas reserves are the second largest in the world, behind Russia's, the new E.U. gas embargo is largely symbolic. Iran currently exports gas only to Turkey and, via small swap deals, Armenia and Azerbaijan; a planned pipeline that would allow it to service Pakistan is its sole other gas export project to have reached any significant stage of development.

Iran's state-run Press TV responded to the latest round of E.U. sanctions by calling on the moral authority of the United Nations and its secretary-general: "The bloc's new move comes in defiance of the UN chief's recent remarks about the humanitarian ramifications of the previously-imposed embargoes. Ban Ki-moon warned on October 5 that the West's sanctions have mainly targeted the livelihood of the ordinary Iranian population."

Video of the Day

After years of largely dismissing the effect of Western sanctions, or even claiming that they were benefitting the Iranian economy, over the past month state media outlets have been providing substantially more coverage of sanctions' negative impact. In this video, Press TV -- the English-language subsidiary of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting -- shows how sanctions are affecting ordinary Iranians' access to pharmaceuticals, even as it derides the awarding this past week of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union. Perhaps inadvertently, the story also suggests that many Iranian doctors want their critically ill patients to take only Western-manufactured medicines.

Denial of the Day

Ironically, on Tuesday as well, Prosecutor-General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, spokesman for the Iranian judiciary, declared that the Islamic Republic rejected the report issued last week by U.N. Special Rapporteur on Iranian Human Rights Ahmed Shaheed, in which he describes pervasive, in many cases horrific, human rights violations committed by Iranian officials. "We do not at all accept this report because they [the report's authors] refer to biased people and those who are hostile to us in a bid to obtain information," said Ejei.

According to the report submitted to the U.N. General Assembly by Shaheed, who conducted dozens of interviews,

human rights defenders reported being arrested and held incommunicado in solitary confinement for periods ranging from several weeks to 36 months, without charge or access to legal counsel.

Most of them also reported that they were subjected to severe physical torture during interrogations, which were aimed at coercing confessions or soliciting information about other human rights defenders and human rights organizations.

Methods employed reportedly included severe beatings with batons and other objects, mock hangings, electrocution, and actual rape.

Other forms of psychological torture allegedly included sleep deprivation, denial of food and/or water, and threats of arrest, detention, rape or murder of family members. Several victims also reported being drugged with hallucinogens.

Codename of the Day

Murky Water

-- Germany's Der Spiegel reports that "Western intelligence officials" have obtained a "top-secret" Iranian plan, codenamed "Murky Water," to create a massive environmental catastrophe in the Strait of Hormuz. The purpose of the deliberate disaster would be multifold: to "punish" the U.S.-aligned Arab countries that use the strait's shipping lanes; to force the West to enlist Iran in a decontamination effort that would require the lifting of various sanctions; to enrich companies controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that would be involved in such a cleanup; and to rally the Iranian people around the government at a time of growing economic crisis. According to Reuters, "There was no independent confirmation of the report."

Headline of the Weekend

"Tiny Azerbaijan Unleashes Pop-Power against Iran's Mullahs"

-- From the Washington Post. Joby Warrick's story describes how Shia-majority Azerbaijan "is coming to relish its role as the region's anti-Iran, a secular, Western-leaning country that is working mightily to become everything that Iran is not." Celebrating Jennifer Lopez's debut concert in the country, an unnamed Azerbaijani official declares, "You could almost feel the Iranians seething.... This stuff makes them crazy."

Photos of the Day

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Traditional street spectacle in Kerman's Tohid Square.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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