US Offers $7m To Find Hezbollah Agent Wanted For Argentina Attack

In this file photo taken on July 18, 1994, a man walks over the rubble left after a bomb exploded at the Argentinian Israeli Mutual Association in Buenos Aires. ALI BURAFI / AFP

 

The United States on Friday offered a $7 million reward to find a Hezbollah operative accused of masterminding a deadly 1994 attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, as it vowed to pursue the group worldwide.

The United States also imposed sanctions on the senior Hezbollah figure, Salman Raouf Salman, in tandem with his blacklisting by Argentina as it marks the 25th anniversary of the bombing, which killed 85 people.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was visiting Argentina on the anniversary of the attack, along with ministers from several Latin American nations visiting Buenos Aires for talks on counter-terrorism.

The State Department said it would give $7 million to anyone who provides information that leads to the location of Salman, also known as Salman al-Reda.

The Treasury Department said that Salman masterminded the 1994 attack and “has directed terrorist operations in the Western Hemisphere for Hezbollah ever since.”

“This administration will continue to target Hezbollah terrorists who plot horrific murderous operations and indiscriminately kill innocent civilians on behalf of this violent group and its Iranian patrons,” said Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

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Iran is the primary sponsor of Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim militant movement as well as political party that waged a guerrilla campaign against Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon.

Salman has been reported to have joint Lebanese and Colombian citizenship, allowing him to move more easily across Latin America.

Asked where he is believed to be now, a senior administration official said: “We think he is probably somewhere in the Middle East.”

The Treasury designation will freeze any assets he may have in the United States and criminalize any assistance to him, although Hezbollah as a whole is already under heavy US sanctions.

A State Department official said that the United States has been encouraging Latin American nations to follow the US model in blacklisting groups and individuals as terrorists — as seen in Argentina’s decision on Salman.

Canada Sanctions 17 Saudi Nationals Over Khashoggi’s Killing

Turkey Widens Khashoggi Search, Quizzes Consulate Staff

 

Canada announced targeted sanctions Thursday against 17 Saudi nationals it said were linked to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month.

The sanctions, which freezes their assets and bars their travel to Canada, “target individuals who are, in the opinion of the government of Canada, responsible for or complicit in the extrajudicial killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on October 2, 2018,” Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a statement.

At the same time, Ottawa continued to call for “a transparent and rigorous accounting of the circumstances” surrounding Khashoggi’s murder, saying that “the explanations offered to date by Saudi Arabia lack consistency and credibility.”

“The murder of Jamal Khashoggi is abhorrent and represents an unconscionable attack on the freedom of expression of all individuals,” Freeland also told a press conference in Buenos Aires on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

“This case is not closed,” she said. “Those responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder must be held to account and must face justice.”

Freeland accompanied Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the summit, also attended by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia has said that 21 people are in custody, with death penalties sought against five men.

International pressure has mounted on Riyadh to find those responsible for the grisly murder of Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote for The Washington Post and had been critical of Prince Mohammed.

A recent CIA analysis leaked to the US media reportedly pointed the finger at Prince Mohammed, though Saudi prosecutors have said he had no role in the killing.

The Canadian sanctions target individuals alleged to be members of a Saudi hit squad that carried out the killing, as well as close aides of the prince.

They come after allies France, Germany and the United States imposed similar sanctions on these individuals.

AFP

South Sudan Stays Armed For War Despite Sanctions

 

Despite long-standing restrictions, new weapons have continued to reach South Sudan’s battlefields, often via neighboring countries, a detailed report by an arms monitoring group said on Thursday.

A four-year investigation, by London-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR), into the supply of weapons that have helped keep South Sudan’s civil war alive since December 2013, has revealed the important role played by neighboring countries, particularly Uganda, in circumventing arms embargoes.

While the UN Security Council did not impose an arms embargo on South Sudan until July 2018, more than four years into a war that has killed an estimated 380,000 people, the EU has banned direct sales of weapons by member states to Sudan since 1994, amending the embargo to include newly-independent South Sudan in 2011.

Nevertheless, the government army — known as the SPLA, or Sudan People’s Liberation Army — has been kept well supplied with weaponry, often funneled through Uganda and sometimes originating from Europe or the US.

The rebel SPLA-IO (SPLA In Opposition) has had less success in sourcing weapons, the researchers found, relying heavily on scavenging arms.

CAR executive director James Bevan said his group’s “comprehensive, on-the-ground survey of the weaponry used” included documenting hundreds of weapons and more than 200,000 bullets.

“The result is a forensic picture of how prohibitions on arms transfers to the warring parties have failed,” he said.

 Weapons ‘shopping list’ 

CAR found that, despite numerous allegations and rumors, no new Chinese weapons reached South Sudan after May 2014, six months into the war.

Nevertheless, two large shipments of Chinese weapons to Juba, via Mombasa in Kenya, while legal due to the lack of an arms embargo, ensured the SPLA was well-supplied for the ongoing civil war: the shipments included more than 27 million rounds of small-caliber ammunition, as well as rockets, grenades, missiles, pistols assault rifles, and machine guns.

CAR found that, while Chinese ammunition had previously accounted for “less than two percent” of bullets in circulation in South Sudan, once the shipments arrived over half the ammunition in use was Chinese.

“The logical conclusion is that the 27 million rounds of small-caliber ammunition legally transferred to the SPLA from China in 2014 have sustained SPLA operations in the years since,” CAR said.

Meanwhile, Uganda “has continued to be a conduit for material” to the SPLA, CAR said. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is a stout supporter of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir.

Kampala is alleged to have transferred to South Sudan weapons legally supplied to Uganda in 2014 and 2015 from manufacturers in Europe and the US, most likely without the knowledge of the companies involved.

The re-transfer of weapons may contravene clauses contained in the so-called end-user certificates that are intended to ensure weapons are used by the countries they are originally sent to.

The armaments have included military aircraft as well as ammunition sold to the Ugandan military.

CAR also found evidence of long-suspected Sudanese weapons deliveries to SPLA-IO, but not recently.

The researchers’ work also underscored how isolated the rebels, under former vice president Riek Machar, have been, leaving fighters short of both external supporters and bullets.

“Despite allegations made by the SPLA during 2017, CAR has found little indication of external resupply to the SPLA-IO since mid-2015,” the report said.

Efforts by Machar in early 2014 to seek delivery of a “shopping list” including 43 million rounds of ammunition, mortars, rockets, rifles and surface-to-air missiles failed.

Instead, rebels have been forced to rely on defections or capturing weapons after battles.

AFP

UN Court Tells Us To Ease Iran’s Sanction On Humanitarian Goods

 

The UN’s top court ordered the United States Wednesday to lift sanctions on humanitarian goods for Iran in a stunning setback for US President Donald Trump.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague handed Iran a major victory, saying that the stinging economic sanctions put Iranian lives at risk.

The ruling is likely to rile Trump, who reimposed the sanctions in May after pulling out of Iran’s international nuclear deal to the dismay of his allies.

But it was unclear whether the judgment will be anything more than symbolic because both Washington and Tehran have ignored them in the past.

The ICJ judges ruled that the sanctions on some goods breached a 1955 “Treaty of Amity” between Iran and the US that predates Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

“The court finds unanimously that… the United States of America… shall remove by means of its choosing any impediments arising from the measures announced on 8 May to the free exportation to Iran of medicines and medical devices, food, and agricultural commodities” as well as airplane parts, chief judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf said.

The court said sanctions on goods “required for humanitarian needs… may have a serious detrimental impact on the health and lives of individuals on the territory of Iran.”

US sanctions also had the “potential to endanger civil aviation safety in Iran and the lives of its users.”

‘In the right’

Iran’s foreign ministry hailed the shocking judgment as proof that Tehran was “in the right”.

Ahead of the decision, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the sanctions were a form of “psychological warfare” aimed at regime change.

Trump slapped the first round of sanctions on Iran in August after pulling out in May of the international deal aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, to the dismay of his European allies. The second round of punitive measures is due in November.

Iran dragged the US to the ICJ in July, and during four days of hearings in late August, its lawyers accused Washington of “strangling” its economy.

Washington however forcefully told the court that it has no jurisdiction to rule on this case as it concerns a matter of national security.

Wednesday’s ruling is, in fact, a decision on so-called provisional measures ahead of a final decision on the matter, which may take several more years, experts said.

Rulings by the Hague-based ICJ, which rules on disputes between United Nations members are binding but it has no mechanism through which it can enforce its decisions.

In 1986 Washington disregarded the court’s finding that it had violated international law by supporting the pro-US Contra rebels in Nicaragua. Iran, in turn, ignored the ICJ’s ruling in 1980 to release hostages taken during the Iran hostage crisis.

Nazi disposition

There was no immediate reaction from the United States, but Trump has previously shown his disdain for overarching international organizations that limit US sovereignty, including the UN.

He recently heavily criticized the separate International Criminal Court in The Hague over a probe into alleged US abuses in Afghanistan.

The 2015 nuclear deal saw Iran agree to limit its nuclear programme and let in international inspectors in return for an end to years of sanctions by the West.

But Trump argues that funds from the lifting of sanctions under the pact have been used to support terrorism and build nuclear-capable missiles.

European allies have pledged to keep the deal alive, with plans for a mechanism to let firms skirt the US sanctions as they do business with Iran.

Despite that, France alleged on Tuesday that the Iranian intelligence ministry was behind a foiled plot to bomb an exiled opposition group near Paris.

US-Iran relations have plunged to a new low since Trump’s election in 2016, even as the US president reaches out to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over his nuclear programme.

Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani faced off at the UN in September, with Rouhani denouncing leaders with “xenophobic tendencies resembling a Nazi disposition”.

Despite their 1955 Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations, Iran and the United States have not had diplomatic ties since 1980.

The case is the second brought by Tehran against Washington since 2016. That year it brought a suit at the ICJ against the freezing of around $2 billion of Iranian assets abroad which US courts say should go to American victims of terror attacks.

Hearings, in that case, are due to start next week.

AFP