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Obama's "Reset" Falls Apart

- August 14, 2012

Russia Slams New U.S. Sanctions Against Iran, Saying They Will Put U.S.-Russian Relations In Danger

Russia Called The New U.S. Sanctions Against Iran "Covert Blackmail" And Warned That They Would Harm U.S.-Russian Relations. "Russia sharply criticized new U.S. sanctions against Iran on Monday, saying the measures to punish banks, insurance companies and shippers that help Iran sell its oil would harm Moscow's ties with Washington if Russian firms are affected. Russia, which has long opposed sanctions beyond those approved by the U.N. Security Council to pressure Tehran over its nuclear program, called the measures 'overt blackmail' and a 'crude contradiction of international law.'" ("Russia Says New U.S. Sanctions On Iran Could Affect Ties," Reuters, 8/13/12)

  • Russian Foreign Ministry: "Those In Washington Should Take Into Account That Our Bilateral Relations Will Suffer Seriously" If Sanctions Impact Russian Businesses. "'Those in Washington should take into account that our bilateral relations will suffer seriously if Russian operators … come under the effects of the American restrictions,' the ministry said." ("Russia Says New U.S. Sanctions On Iran Could Affect Ties," Reuters, 8/13/12)

Meanwhile, The Syrian Regime Is Plotting To Use Its Close Relationship With Russia To Evade Western Sanctions

Syria's "Strong Diplomatic Alliance" With Russia Continues To Blunt The Impact Of Western Sanctions Against The Syrian Regime. "The documents, which span a period from March until early July, also underscore the difficulties facing Western governments in sustaining comprehensive sanctions against Syria, as long as Damascus keeps its strong diplomatic alliance with Moscow. Earlier this month, Russia received a delegation of top Syrian economic officials, including its oil and finance ministers, to discuss the possibility of government loans and long-term oil deals, Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said in a news conference." (Margaret Coker and Jennifer Valentino-Devries, "Syria's Russian Connection," The Wall Street Journal, 8/14/12)

Government Documents And Correspondence Revealed That Syria Intended To Use Russian Banks To Skirt U.S. And European Sanctions. "Syria's embattled regime laid plans to use Russian banks as part of an emergency effort to sidestep American and European sanctions on oil and financial transactions, according to Syrian government documents and correspondence reviewed by The Wall Street Journal." (Margaret Coker and Jennifer Valentino-Devries, "Syria's Russian Connection," The Wall Street Journal, 8/14/12)

  • A Letter To The Syrian Prime Minister Described How Offshore Companies And Russian Bank Accounts Could Be Used To Prevent The U.S. And Europe From Tracing The Companies To Syria. "After a July 1 meeting, the four officials drafted a letter to then-Prime Minister Riad Hijab saying that international sanctions had limited their ability to collect revenue by cutting off 'conventional solutions [and] customary banking' practices, according to a copy of the letter reviewed by the Journal. … 'Offshore companies are being formed in Russia and Malaysia and bank accounts are being activated in Russia in euro and Russian-ruble [denominated accounts] and could be ready Thursday July 5, 2012…. [T]hen we would be able to pay for the value of the imports and receive the money for crude exports easily, while all concerned parties will take all the necessary actions to ensure the confidentiality of the proceedings in order not to open the way to the European Union and the United States to track the work of these companies and include them on the list of sanctions,' according to the letter." (Margaret Coker and Jennifer Valentino-Devries, "Syria's Russian Connection," The Wall Street Journal , 8/14/12)
  • Syrian Officials Planned To Use Russian Oil Tankers And Insurance Companies To Ship Syrian Oil To Buyers In Russia. "One logistical problem posed by the sanctions was how to ship oil to buyers. Documents reviewed by the Journal show that Russian buyers of Syrian crude made plans to load Syrian oil onto leased tankers from Singapore and Russian-owned tankers based in the Black Sea. Correspondence between potential Russian buyers and Sytrol indicate that the buyers planned to use Russian insurance companies to cover the shipments." (Margaret Coker and Jennifer Valentino-Devries, "Syria's Russian Connection," The Wall Street Journal , 8/14/12)

Will Obama Cave To Russian Interests Like He Did With China?

China Is Iran's Top Oil Customer But Was Granted A Waiver By The Obama Administration In Order To Avoid A "Serious Collision" Between The U.S. And China. "The American waiver granted to China, Iran's top customer of oil, was regarded as especially significant because it averted a potentially serious collision between China and the United States, which are both members of the group of six big powers that are negotiating with Iran in the nuclear dispute. Under the American law, banks of countries that are Iranian oil importers can be denied access to the American banking system." (Rick Gladstone, "U.S. Exempts Singapore And China On Iran Oil," The New York Times, 6/28/12)

  • Just Days Before Increased Sanctions Against Iranian Oil Importers Took Effect, Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton Granted A Waiver To China For "Significantly" Reducing Iranian Oil Imports. SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: "Today I have made the determination that two additional countries, China and Singapore, have significantly reduced their volume of crude oil purchases from Iran. As a result, I will report to the Congress that sanctions pursuant to Section 1245(d)(1) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012 will not apply to their financial institutions for a potentially renewable period of 180 days. A total of 20 world economies have now qualified for such an exception." (Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton, Statement Regarding Significant Reductions Of Iranian Crude Oil Purchases, Washington, DC, 6/28/12)

"The Problem Is That China's Reduction Is An Apparent Fluke," Driven By A Pricing Dispute With Iran, "Not A Dedicated Effort To Reduce Trade Or Isolate Iran Economically." "The problem is that China's reduction is an apparent fluke, not a dedicated effort to reduce trade or isolate Iran economically. Imports fell by about 50% in February and March because a Chinese oil giant delayed the start of a contract over a price dispute. Once that was resolved, imports shot back up-by 34% between April and May, and again by 35% between May and June." (Editorial, "Obama's Iran Loopholes," The Wall Street Journal, 7/2/12)

  • After Settling A Pricing Dispute, China Boosted Its Purchases Of Iranian Imports By 17% In June. "By contrast, Iran has is showing more flexibility when it comes to negotiating prices-a move China has taken advantage of. After a pricing dispute that ended with Beijing getting the upper hand, the country, long Tehran's largest oil buyer, has reversed a cut in Iranian imports, boosting them by 17% in June. As a result, Iran's oil exports have stabilized in the past two months at about 1.1 million barrels a day and the rate of decline of its production has slowed, according to analysts." (Benoît Faucon, "Iran Barters And Bargains To Help Oil Sales," The Wall Street Journal, 8/7/12)

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