Archive for the ‘Sudan’ Category


Jun

16

It’s A Small World After All, Even For Economic Sanctions


Posted by and at 8:02 pm on June 16, 2014
Category: ChinaEconomic SanctionsEURussia SanctionsSanctionsSudan

It's A Small World by Darren Wittko https://www.flickr.com/photos/disneyworldsecets/2767829714/ CC BY 2.0 [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/] (cropped)G-7 countries recent meeting in Brussels understandably grabbed global headlines for their unified message that they “stand ready to intensify targeted sanctions and to implement significant additional restrictive measures to impose further costs on Russia should events so require.”

While sanctions imposed by G-7 countries, as well as the EU, drive the engine of global sanctions enforcement, there are almost 200 other countries in the world and many of them want to have their position on sanctions known.  Last week, for example, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić surprised no one on Earth (or anywhere else for that matter) when he told Serbian media, “It’s impossible to imagine Serbia imposing sanctions on Russia.”  Of course, Nikolić’s pronouncement is hardly going to cause the E.U. to rethink, even for a fraction of a nanosecond, its position on Russian sanctions.  On the other hand, the E.U. sanctions may cause Serbia, given that Russia is one of it’s largest trading partners, to rethink the wisdom of its application to become a member of the E.U.

Besting Serbia’s population by over a billion, China is emerging as a critical Russian ally and the most important country that is not imposing sanctions against it.  As with Serbia, economic self-interest and the volume of China’s trade with Russia may be at the heart of this.  In fact, reports on the recent $400 billion, 30-year deal for Gazprom to supply natural gas to China suggest the deal would be based on a ruble-yuan exchange and bypass Western financial systems altogether.

With developed countries like China and Serbia using economic self-interest to justify trading with Russia despite its shenanigans in Ukraine, some developing countries may be acting against their own economic self-interest in imposing sanctions to deal with regional conflicts.  Reuters reported this week, for example, that members of the Intergovernmental Agency for Development, an East African trade group made up of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda, have threatened sanctions against South Sudan if warring factions do not cooperate to end conflict in that country.  The United States imposed sanctions in early May against military leaders involved in the conflict, but they likely will provide no meaningful impact.  However, when everyday trade with your neighboring countries starts to become restricted, sanctions are far more likely to achieve the goal of ending conflict.  If East African sanctions succeed against South Sudan while E.U and U.S. sanctions have no impact on Ukraine,  then we will certainly have a situation where it’s the mice that roar while the elephants squeak.

Sanctions news runs on the front page when it involves the United States and Europe but also on the back pages as it involves the rest of the world.  You have to read the whole paper to make sure you have the full story.

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Mar

25

OFAC: Keeping Us Safe from MOOCs


Posted by at 5:24 pm on March 25, 2014
Category: Cuba SanctionsEconomic SanctionsIran SanctionsSudanSyria

By Aristóteles Sandoval [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3A16-02-2011_Guadalajara_Libre_en_Palacio_Municipal.jpgThis blog previously reported on the impact of OFAC sanctions on the Massive Open Online Courses, quaintly known as MOOCs, offered by the for-profit Coursera. The sanctions have led Coursera to block students with IP addresses from Iran, Cuba and Sudan, a half-hearted attempt by the company to comply with U.S. sanctions.   Those sanctions, in general, prevent providing services to nationals of blocked countries even outside their home countries, so offering MOOCs to Iranians in, say, Germany, would be equally problematic. (Coursera gave Syrian students a reprieve relying, rather questionably, on an exemption in Syria General License 11A for educational exports by NGOs).

Last week, the Office of Foreign Assets Control gave Iranian students, both inside and outside Iran, a partial reprieve from the ban on MOOCs when it issued Iran General License G. That license permits enrollment of Iranians, both in and out of Iran, in MOOCs

provided that the courses are the equivalent of courses ordinarily required for the completion of undergraduate degree programs in the humanities, social sciences, law, or business, or are introductory undergraduate level science, technology, engineering, or math courses ordinarily required for the completion of undergraduate degree programs in the humanities, social sciences, law, or business.

Sadly, there was no happiness in Coursera-ville, because the license is restricted to “accredited graduate and undergraduate degree-granting academic institutions.” Not all of Coursera’s courses are offered by accredited academic institutions, so some of its course offering will not benefit from this general license.

Another beneficiary of the new general license would appear to be EdX, the MOOC platform founded by Harvard and MIT. EdX partners with other accredited academic institutions that provide the various offerings made available by EdX. One significant difference between EdX and Coursera is that EdX sought and obtained a license to provide MOOCs to students in  Cuba, Iran and Sudan. Apparently that license did not cover provision of STEM courses, i.e., courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, without specific approval by OFAC, according to this Harvard Crimson article.  That article went on to note the refusal of OFAC to permit a MOOC entitled “Flight Vehicle Aerodynamics” taught by MIT faculty.

This would mean that EdX and Coursera no longer need specific licenses for Iranian students to participate in courses taught by accredited institutions other than certain advanced STEM courses. However, licenses will still be required to initiate Cuban and Sudanese students into the intricacies of George Eliot’s Middlemarch or the structure of French symbolist poetry. (It is well known that familiarity with Eliot and Valéry are mere stepping stones to terrorist and anti-American activity, so we will be safe from literary Cuban and Sudanese terrorists, at least for the moment.) This General License, however, probably has no effect on the “Flight Vehicle Aerodynamics” course, because although it is far from clear what is meant by STEM courts “ordinarily required for the completion of undergraduate degree programs in the humanities, social sciences, law, or business,” it is probably safe to assume that “Flight Vehicle Aerodynamics” is not among them.

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Feb

25

OFAC Nukes MOOCS


Posted by at 8:59 pm on February 25, 2014
Category: Cuba SanctionsEconomic SanctionsIran SanctionsOFACSudanSyria

Formal Fridays via http://www.glassdoor.com/Photos/Coursera-Mountain-View-Office-Photos-EI_IE654749.0,8_IL.9,22_IC1147431.htm [Fair Use]I missed this earlier, but back at the end of January, Coursera, a provider of the euphoniously acronymed MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) said “No MOOCS for you” to residents of Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan who wanted to better themselves by taking online courses such as “Scandinavian Film and Television” or “Buddhism and Modern Psychology.” I certainly sleep better at night now knowing that the Cuban and Iranian threats are not being needlessly augmented by educating Cubans and Iranians on the subtle politics of Borgen or the psychological insights of the Four Noble Truths.

Because the online courses involve feedback, grading and the like, the concern is that these courses are an export of services, forbidden by the current sanctions on these countries, rather than the export of information, which is permitted under the Berman Amendment. Coursera is a little vague in explaining how it just found that out, saying that it “recently received information that has led to the understanding that the services offered on Coursera are not in compliance with the law as it stands” and that prior to that the law was “unclear.”

Coursera has given Syrian students a reprieve by saying that the State Department has told it that OFAC’s Syria General License 11A covers MOOCs for Syria. That license permits non-governmental organizations to export services to Syria in support of education. I’m not clear how Coursera qualifies as an NGO since it is not a non-profit but a for-profit corporation that seeks revenues and profits through its certification programs and sales of textbooks purchased through its affiliate relationship with Amazon. Nor am I quite clear how the State Department has acquired the ability to determine the scope of OFAC licenses.

The company claims that it is weeding out Cubans, Sudanese and Iranians based on IP addresses, apparently not having taken one of their own course on VPNs which would allow an Iranian wannabe student to appear, online at least, as a German or Italian or whatever. And since civil violations of OFAC rules do not require intent, Coursera is still liable if an Iranian is sitting in Iran but using a VPN to appear as if he or she were elsewhere.

This last point underlines a particular stupidity of applying a 19th century sanctions philosophy to a 21st century Internet where there are no borders. If an Iranian student is, in fact, sitting with his or her laptop in Germany, it would not be illegal for Coursera to provide its services to that student. It is only illegal when the student is in fact physically located in Iran. Now if you can identify a sensible policy which explains why it is more dangerous to teach an Iranian about Scandinavian TV while in Iran than it is in Germany, then you are much more clever than I am.

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Sep

25

Coming to America? What a Trip to NYC Could Mean for U.S. Sanctions on Sudan


Posted by at 9:30 pm on September 25, 2013
Category: Economic SanctionsSanctionsSudan

By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released (DefenseImagery.mil, VIRIN 090202-N-0506A-724) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOmar_al-Bashir%2C_12th_AU_Summit%2C_090202-N-0506A-724.jpg
ABOVE: Omar Al-Bashir

From news that appeared to break recently in the Sudanese press, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir submitted a visa application to the U.S. State Department in order for him to attend UN General Assembly meetings that begin next week. When asked about the application at Monday’s State Department press briefing, Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said, “We condemn any potential effort by President Bashir to travel to New York, given that he stands accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. We would say that before presenting himself to UN headquarters, President Bashir should present himself to the ICC in The Hague to answer for the crimes of which he’s been accused.” Harf continued, “Clearly, we have a visa application right now and would condemn any potential travel by him, but I just don’t have anything further than that.” While it can be expected the State Department will have a concrete position by next week, this situation, and the U.S. response, could serve as an important juncture in U.S. sanctions against Sudan.

Although Syria, Iran and North Korea have attracted most of U.S. foreign policy’s attention in the past year, Sudan remains among the few countries under a comprehensive U.S. trade embargo. Sanctions against Sudan, however, continue to allow foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies to do business there, and the sanctions themselves do not even apply in general to what the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations refer to as “Specified Areas of Sudan.” The Areas, most of which are along the Sudan-South Sudan border, are among the richest in oil and other natural resources in the entire country.

From a U.S. sanctions perspective, Sudan is more open for U.S. business than Iran. Yet since Bashir’s last trip to the United States in 2006, former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has attended UN meetings in New York on several occasions and even spoke at Columbia University. Although his trips were not without controversy, Ahmadinejad was still permitted to enter (and leave) the United States. Reactions from the State Department and Ambassador Samantha Power about Bashir’s visa request point out a difference that Bashir has a warrant issued for his arrest by the ICC, an organization incidentally to which neither Sudan nor the United States are parties. In short, Bashir is one of the most condemned sitting foreign leaders by the United States and most of the world. His visa request, therefore, invites comparison to those prior ones of Ahmadinejad and other leaders of sanctioned countries.

Whether Bashir, his regime and, by extension, Sudan should be subject to stronger sanctions like those against Iran is a debate for U.S. foreign policymakers that is not treated as a political priority at the moment. What is significant about Bashir’s visa request is that Bashir himself may be forcing the issue on the United States, notwithstanding the widespread violence that has continued in Sudan to the present. Issuing or denying a visa both carry significant foreign policy consequences and may lead to a closer examination as to what current U.S. sanctions and export control objectives are with respect to Sudan.

Clif adds: It should also be noted that a denial of the visa for Al-Bashir would be a violation of Article IV of the UN Headquarters Agreement, pursuant to which the United States committed not to impose any “impediments to travel” by “representatives of Members” to UN Headquarters “irrespective of the relations existing between” the United States and the country involved.

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Sep

21

OFAC Is Seeking Solution To Permit US Oil Companies in South Sudan


Posted by at 5:40 pm on September 21, 2011
Category: OFACSudan

South Sudan CurrencyEven though the U.S. has lifted its Sudan sanctions with respect to the newly-minted state of South Sudan, that has not resolved the conundrum of U.S. oil investment and activity in South Sudan. South Sudan is land-locked, and all oil from South Sudan can be commercialized only by using a pipeline that runs through Sudan on its way to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

In a guidance on the Sudan sanctions released back in April, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) noted that the continuing sanctions on Sudan would prohibit U.S. oil companies

from providing services to the petroleum industry in the new state if those services would benefit the Government of Sudan or relate to the petroleum industry in Sudan, or from transporting exports of petroleum or petrochemical products through Sudan.

Revenue-sharing arrangements between Sudan and South Sudan arising from South Sudan’s use of Sudan’s pipeline would further complicate matters. Because of the inevitability of oil transport through Sudan and revenue-sharing arrangements between the two countries, this has been seen as, for all intents and purposes, a complete bar to U.S. oil companies doing business in South Sudan.

Apparently OFAC is now trying to find a way to work around that. Needless to say, because the sanctions on Sudan were imposed by Congressional legislation, OFAC doesn’t have a completely free hand here without enabling legislation from Congress. Still, OFAC is trying to determine what can be done in the absence of such legislation.

Princeton Lyman, the U.S. special representative to South Sudan, told a trade briefing in Washington, according to this item in Petroleum Economist, that a task force at OFAC was working on options to permit U.S. oil activity in South Sudan.

[Lyman] said the Treasury Department would define new criteria for licensing oil deals that would provide only incidental benefits to Sudan, making some deals with South Sudan possible. “The rules of the game are still being worked out and that is very frustrating to [South Sudan] because it wants US oil companies there,” he said. “There is a task force working on it and they will have something soon.”

I have to say I’m at a loss to see how anything could be structured that only provides “incidental” benefits to Sudan short of bypassing the Sudanese pipeline and any revenue sharing arrangement, both of which appear to be impossible, at least in the near term. But there is huge pressure on OFAC to structure something because the Chinese, which are major players in the oil industry in Sudan and South Sudan, are the only ones who will conceivably benefit if OFAC does not find a solution.

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