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Monday, April 13, 2009

Iranian sanctions, European style

In Monday's Washington Times, Eli Lake reports on how two European companies - a major contractor to the U.S. government and a top cell-phone equipment maker - are observing United Nations sanctions against Iran. Last year, the two companies installed surveillance systems that help the Ahmadinejad regime track its political opponents.
Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), a joint venture between the Finnish cell-phone giant Nokia and German powerhouse Siemens, delivered what is known as a monitoring center to Irantelecom, Iran's state-owned telephone company.

A spokesman for NSN said the servers were sold for "lawful intercept functionality," a technical term used by the cell-phone industry to refer to law enforcement's ability to tap phones, read e-mails and surveil electronic data on communications networks.

In Iran, a country that frequently jails dissidents and where regime opponents rely heavily on Web-based communication with the outside world, a monitoring center that can archive these intercepts could provide a valuable tool to intensify repression.

Lily Mazaheri, a human rights and immigration lawyer who represents high-profile Iranian dissidents, said she had suspected that the government had increased its capability to monitor its perceived enemies.

Recently, one of her clients was arrested because of instant messaging he had participated in with Ms. Mazaheri, she said.

"He told me he had received a call from the Ministry of Intelligence, and this guy when he went to the interrogation, they put in front of him printed copies of his chats with me. He said he was dumbfounded, and he was sent to prison."
Read the whole thing.

I've discussed German unwillingness to abide by the sanctions against Iran here (in fact, that post mentioned the same transaction that Lake is writing about), here and here. While Lake is discussing the sale of technology in the context of its impact on the Iranian opposition, that opposition and those who - like Israel - oppose Iran's nuclearization have an identity of interests on supplying technology to Iran.

The bottom line is that sanctions against Iran have not worked and will not work because the world is more worried about its economic bottom line (especially in the current crisis) than it is about stopping Iran from attaining a nuclear bomb. That view is short-sighted because if the doomsday scenario comes true in the aftermath of an Israeli strike and oil shoots to $200 per barrel, the world will suffer a far greater and more intense economic blow than it would have suffered by making sanctions work over the past three years. But it's too late for meaningful sanctions now. Way too late.


At 7:45 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Agreed. There's more about Roger Cohen and Iran you couldn't post today. Max Boot has the details. Don't be put off by the facetious title. Its serious reading.

Cohen's Cuddly Mullahs

Read it all.

At 8:59 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

We ought patronize to businesses that (as far as we know) don't support our blood enemies.


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