Iranian success in European courtrooms. Feb 24, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 23 • By ANDREW SOUTHAM and TED R. BROMUND
In a recently leaked private phone call, an EU foreign policy official, Helga Schmid, grumbled to the EU’s ambassador to Kiev that it was “very annoying” that the United States had criticized the EU for being “too soft” to impose sanctions on Ukraine. Criticism may be annoying, but EU softness is a fact of life, and the transatlantic trouble over sanctions goes beyond Ukraine. For the past year, British and European Union sanctions against Iran have faced a string of legal challenges and lost nearly every round. The sanctions relief offered by the so-called interim nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran conceals the broader problem that the European legal basis for sanctions is eroding. Iran is expert in the waging of terror wars. It’s also, it turns out, good at lawfare.
The West prides itself on its legal system and its protection of property rights. Lawfare seeks to turn these strengths into weaknesses by abusing law to achieve warlike ends. Iran’s legal battles in Europe are a study in lawfare’s increasing power to tie democracies into self-imposed knots. And Iran has done more than befuddle the Europeans. It’s written a playbook for any future subject of sanctions: When Europe calls, lawyer up.
The EU has imposed broad sanctions against Iran since 2007, and in 2009 the British Treasury extended its own sanctions to include Bank Mellat, 20 percent owned by the Iranian government. The bank appealed and in 2013 won a judgment in the U.K. Supreme Court, which found the measures were “arbitrary and irrational” and “disproportionate.” Later that year, the European General Court, for similar reasons, ruled against EU asset freezes of seven firms connected with Iran.
The defeats keep on coming: Last month, the General Court removed Iran’s North Drilling Company from the list of sanctioned firms. It’s merely icing on the cake that Britain may be held legally responsible for the damages Bank Mellat incurred as a result of the sanctions.
The Iranians have reacted to these victories with a mixture of self-righteous indignation and barely suppressed glee. As a strategy, lawfare is particularly galling because it holds that terrorists and dictators are virtuous defenders of law, in contrast with supposedly rogue Western nations. Iran’s Fars News Agency happily reported the claim of a managing director of an Iranian bank that the EU’s actions were “illegal,” while Iranian deputy oil minister Ali Majedi called on French energy firms to invest in Iran and show “the independency of [the] economic sector from politics.”
The Iranians are not the only ones pitching the French. In a recent interview, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that “while the French may send some businesspeople over there, they’re not able to contravene the sanctions. They will be sanctioned if they do and they know it.” So, he sternly concluded, the French had been put “on notice.” When John Kerry scolds France, the world has stopped making sense. Perhaps if Paris fails to heed his notice, he’ll send a letter. He’d have to copy it widely: In mid-January, the Dutch ambassador to Iran held a speed-dating session with firms panting to join the Iranian action. The Wall Street Journal writes mordantly of the coming “gold rush” to Iran.
That characterizes the situation a bit too strongly. The challenge to EU sanctions will take time to unfold. Late last year, the EU started to warn companies that had won favorable rulings that they would be targeted with new sanctions. The EU has an ignoble tradition of using this try, try again approach—in national referenda, they only stop asking when they get the answer they want—but here their bureaucratic persistence serves a noble end. Warnings may not work, however: The Journal reports European officials are concerned that further legal defeats could destroy sanctions altogether.
The fall-back option is to rely on U.S. sanctions and the willingness of the United States to punish foreign firms that evade them. On February 6, Treasury penalized 18 businesses and 14 individuals in eight nations. The U.S. sanctions regime is legally more robust than Europe’s, which implicitly presumes that firms have a right of market access and any exclusion must be regularly justified. But it is one thing for the United States to punish a motley collection of mostly Middle Eastern firms. It would be politically quite another for the U.S. government to designate major European companies if EU sanctions collapse any further. Even a White House that badly wanted to ramp up the pressure on Iran might be reluctant to go after leading European banks, and this White House badly wants no such thing.
1:17 PM, Feb 11, 2014 • By JULIANNE DUDLEY
At today’s press conference with French president François Hollande, a member of the French press asked President Obama whether France had replaced Great Britain as America’s closest ally.
President Obama chuckled and responded, “I have two daughters and they are both gorgeous and wonderful. I would never choose between them. And that's how I feel about my outstanding European partners. All of them are wonderful in their own ways."
Some gloomy reflections on the presidential conscience. Jan 13, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 17 • By EDWARD ALEXANDER
In his ponderously titled book Contributions to the Correction of the Public’s Judgement Concerning the French Revolution (1793), the German philosopher and political leader Johann Gottlieb Fichte took time out from his defense of the Reign of Terror to compose what has been called by Daniel Johnson “the most notorious footnote in history.” It warned his German countrymen of the Jewish menace in their midst. The Jews, he told them, constituted “a state within a state. . . .
Obama annoys Europe.Dec 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 16 • By TOD LINDBERG
Apparently relations between the United States and Europe are actually maturing. How else to account for the singular absence of transatlantic crisis-mongering over the many, many ways in which the Obama administration has annoyed our allies in Europe?
Euthanasia activists are on a roll. Dec 30, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 16 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
Advocates of assisted suicide tell two—no, three—lies that act as the honey to help the hemlock go down. The first is that assisted suicide/euthanasia is a strictly medical act. Second, they falsely assure us that medicalized killing is only for the terminally ill. Finally, they promise that strict guidelines will be rigorously enforced to protect against abuse.
Victorino Matus, Sabbath shopper
Nov 18, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 10 • By VICTORINO MATUS
The Good Book tells us “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work He had done in creation.” What biblical scholars cannot tell us, however, is precisely how God spent his Sunday. Did He go for a run? Read the paper while sipping on a venti macchiato at Starbucks?
The NSA in Europe. Nov 11, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 09 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
It is often remarked that espionage is the second-oldest profession. Written records from Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Iran suggest that spying and civilization sprang up together. In antiquity, spies could be the hidden bureaucrats of tyranny or good governance (a ruler needed to know whether a satrap was cheating the crown and its subjects) or, less often, camouflaged itinerants writing home about the machinations of rival city-states, empires, or barbarian tribes. In modern times, espionage went Orwellian, becoming primarily a tool to buttress police states.
4:44 PM, Oct 17, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
The captain of the ms Noordam has announced that due to the choppy seas we won't be able to put in, as planned, at Santorini—but that rather than having another day at sea, we're boldly heading off to dock at Iraklion, Crete.
9:04 AM, Oct 15, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
On board the ms Noordam, at port in Venice
"Now, what news on the Rialto?" you ask those of us enjoying THE WEEKLY STANDARD Mediterranean cruise (echoing Solanio in Act 3, Scene 1, of the Merchant of Venice).
Oct 21, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 07 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
Last week in these pages, Ike Brannon noted that Europe is outstripping the United States in reducing the role of government in the economy (“Europe Leads the Way?” October 14). Now it seems that our European brethren are also taking a more sensible view of the regulatory state. The European parliament surprised observers by refusing to regulate electronic cigarettes as medical devices, which would have subjected them to onerous regulations.
In reducing the role of government in the economy, the U.S. is a laggard. Oct 14, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 06 • By IKE BRANNON
For much of the last century the United States was the world’s beacon for capitalism, but these days we’re far from such a lofty perch. Since the end of the Cold War, countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain have moved to reduce the role of government in the economy by changing the tax code as well as by privatizing government activities.
"In the United States, sometimes the names I'm called are quite different."9:23 AM, Sep 4, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
In Sweden, President Obama complained about the way he's sometimes treated back home in the United States, and suggested he'd be more welcomed in Europe:
"You know, I have to say that if I were here in Europe, I'd probably be considered right in the middle, maybe center-left, maybe center-right, depending on the country. In the United States, sometimes the names I'm called are quite different," Obama said at a joint press conference.
23 percent of German men say “zero” is the ideal family size.11:44 AM, Aug 20, 2013 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
Last week, the New York Times ran a piece on the dire demographic problems facing Germany. The short version: Germans aren’t having enough kids, and as a result the economy is in trouble and there are all sorts of logistical problems—vacant buildings that need to be razed; houses that will never be sold, sewer systems which may not function properly because they’re too empty.
2:33 PM, Aug 17, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Democratic senator Mary Landrieu says she's embarrassed to go to places in Europe like France and Spain because some Americans do not have health insurance. Landrieu, who is up for reelection in 2014, represents the state of Louisiana.