Tag Archives: sanctions

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

The problem of piracy off the coast of Somalia continues to be a problem for the international community. Despite the presence of U.N. sanctioned international forces—which at times has among others involved U.S., E.U., Indian, German, British, French, and Portuguese naval vessels—Somali pirates last week attacked a U.S.-flagged ship and seized control of an Italian-flagged tug. The U.S. navy is engaged in a standoff with pirates who kidnapped the captain of the Maersk Alabama after its crew prevented them from taking control of the ship. In another standoff, French forces stormed a yacht held by pirates on Friday. One hostage and two pirates were killed in the operation.

In news from outside the Gulf of Aden last week:

1. The government of Thailand declared a state of emergency in Bangkok, the country’s capital, on Saturday, hoping to bring to a close the recent uptick in anti-government protest in the country. Under the terms of the state of emergency, the power of the government to arrest and detain people is significantly expanded, and large gatherings are banned. The opposition labeled the state of emergency as “an act of war.” An estimated 80,000 people took to the streets of Bangkok on Wednesday, demanding the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who has been in office for five months. On Saturday, protestors in the Thai resort town of Pattaya forced the cancellation of a three-day summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations, embarrassing the Thai government.

2. The United Nations Security Council appears to be moving forward with a statement condemning last week’s rocket launch by North Korea. The statement, expected to be approved by the body on Monday, is a compromise between the demands of the United States and Japan for a resolution condemning the launch and China and Russia’s desire for a more cautious approach. Sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council following a North Korean nuclear test in 2006 have not been effectively enforced, but the current statement would permit the Security Council to extend or expand the sanctions.

3. Alberto Fujimori, former president of Peru, was sentenced to 25 years after being found guilty of human rights violation on Tuesday. Fujimori was elected president in 1990, but staged in coup in 1992, suspending the constitution and closing down Congress. At the time, the country was engulfed in a civil war, with the government fighting against the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru revolutionary movements. During the war, both sides regularly engaged in kidnapping, murder, and other crimes against humanity. Fujimori was the first democratically elected leader in Latin America to be tried in country for human rights violations and his trial is widely viewed as a potential model for other countries to follow.

4. The trial of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi is expected to begin this week. Saberi, who has worked for the BBC, National Public Radio, and Fox News, among others, was arrested by the government of Iran on charges of espionage two months ago. Saberi’s trial would complicate overtures by the U.S. government to enter into formal, country-to-country negotiations with Iran over the status of its nuclear program.

5. Political instability seems to be the rule of the day in the “privileged sphere of influence” claimed by Russia. Thousands of protestors have taken to the streets of Tbilisi, demanding the resignation of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. The protests lack a unified theme, but common points of concern include increasing unemployment, Saakashvili’s poor handling of the war with Russia last August, and his attempts to limit the independence of the judiciary. Meanwhile, the constitutional court in Moldova granted Vladminir Voronin’s request to recount ballots from last Sunday’s disputed presidential election. Voronin’s community party won nearly half the popular vote and would get to choose the country’s next president. But anti-communist groups have refused to recognize the outcome and ransacked the president’s offices lat week.

Five Stories You Might Have Missed

Here’s this week’s installment of Five Stories You Might Have Missed, with a special bonus entry on Tuesday’s Canadian elections!  Enjoy!

1. The Bush administration has removed North Korea from its terror list.  In exchange for its removal, North Korea has agreed to allow nuclear inspects into its facilities to verify compliance with the agreement produced in the six-party talks.

2. World economic markets continue to be turbulent, as demonstrated by the global market selloffs last week, including the largest single-largest day decline for the U.S. stock market since 1987.  In a move intended to address the crisis, most of the world’s major central banks last week announced simultaneous cuts in inertest rates.  But despite the ongoing financial crisis, the United States remained the most competitive country in the world, topping the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.  The remaining countries in the top 10: Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Singapore, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Canada, Hong King, and Britain.

3. Concerns over the continued development of Iran’s nuclear program sparked discussions between the U.S. and its allies last week about imposing sanctions on Iran without the support of the United Nations Security Council.   Action by the Security Council seems unlikely given the strength of objections raised by China and Russia.  The proposed sanctions would be imposed on a voluntary basis and would likely target Iran’s petrol imports and refining sector.

4. The tentative settlement of the crisis in Zimbabwe  reached several weeks ago now appears to be in limbo, as the Mugabe government has unilaterally moved to seize control of key positions within the government of national unity.  Mugabe announced his party, the Zimbabwe African National Union, would control several key ministries, including justice, media, home affairs (police), foreign affairs, defense, local government, and finance.  The opposition parties would be given control of relatively less important ministries, including constitutional affairs, energy, health, labor and social welfare.  No word yet on the response from South Africa, which had mediated the original settlement.

5. In local election results last week, Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) performed above most expectations, nearly capturing a majority of seats in two districts, while the ruling National Action Party (PAN) placed third.  The results suggest that Mexico may be in for a political transformation in its next round of mid-term, scheduled for summer 2009.

6. And in a bonus story for this week, Canada may be the first country to experience a political transition due to the current global economic crisis.  When a snap election was called six weeks ago, Stephen Harper’s ruling Progressive Conservative party had been projected to cruise to victory, perhaps even winning a majority in the parliament.  It now appears that Stéphane Dion’s Liberal Party may be positioned to play spoiler.

Sanctions in a Globalized Economy

Western companies are divesting from Russia following the South Ossetia crisis and are scaling back investment in Iran over fears of the West imposing new sanction on the country. But as large companies are moving out of Iran, small and medium size companies are moving in to fill the void. According to a story reported in the Financial Times on Thursday, trade between the European Union and Iran actually increased as a result. Between January and April 2008, EU exports to Iran increased by 17.8%, while imports from Iran increased by 24%. The increase in European-Iranian trade occurred despite three UN resolutions in intended to isolate Iran, and despite significant pressure on the part of the European Union to discourage trade and investment in the country.

The debate over the effectiveness of sanctions a foreign policy tool goes back some time. The United Kingdom imposed sanctions on South Rhodesia (which would later become Zimbabwe) in 1965. It hoped that the sanctions would force the white minority government in South Rhodesia to move towards multi-racial democracy. Similar sanctions were often debated (though rarely imposed) on South Africa during the apartheid era. The sanctions against Southern Rhodesia (and the limited trade restrictions imposed against South Africa) were largely ineffective. The United Nations imposed sanctions on Iraq after the first Persian Gulf War. In the Iraqi case, U.S. enforcement of the sanctions made them relatively tight, thought the controversy over the misuse of the UN Oil for Food program later suggested that there were holes there as well. The United States has maintained sanctions against Cuba since 1962, through many other countries (including Canada and most European states) have generally refused to recognize the embargo. The Helms-Burton Act (passed in 1996) attempted to strengthen the Cuban embargo by permitting the government to block access to U.S. markets for any company that does business with Cuba.
This has been a very controversial policy in Europe, and may be a violation of World Trade Organization rules.

The effectiveness of sanctions in an era of economic globalization remains even more debated. On the one hand, economic globalization creates interdependence between countries which could make them more vulnerable to the effects of sanctions (though it also raises the cost of the sanctions for the country which is imposing them). On the other hand, globalization also creates many different avenues for trade. As a result, the closure of one market may merely shift buyers and sellers to new markets or trading partners. Nevertheless, it seem that effective sanctions require a strong international consensus or a country willing to bear the cost of enforcement. The sanctions against Iraq, for example, had both. Where this is not the case (contemporary Iran and Russia), sanctions are not likely to be effective in achieving foreign policy goals.