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By David Bedein and Arlene Kushner [David Bedein, MSW, BUREAU CHIEF, Israel Resource News Agency Director, Center for Near East Policy Research Beit Agron Int’l Press Center, Jerusalem, Israel]

On Wednesday, December 30, 2009, Professor Irwin Cotler, a member of the Canadian parliament and former Canadian Minister of Justice and Canadian Attorney General, conducted a press briefing at the King David Hotel in which he announced that he was spearheading new international sanctions against Iran.

Speaking of the parallels between the current situation and 1939, Prof. Cotler addressed the issue of the Iranian threat from multiple perspectives:

The Iran of Ahmadinejad, says Cotler, is a clear and present danger to Middle East stability, Israel and Jews more broadly, and its own people.

Of great concern is the indifference and inaction of the international community with respect to these dangers, and the impunity with which Ahmadinejad is permitted to proceed.

He proposes an approach to Iran that is broad-based, and demands accountability of Iran with regard to all of the threats it currently represents:


1) Iran is defying the international community with regard to its nuclear development. It is in standing violation of UN prohibitions.

2) Iran has already committed incitement to genocide, as forbidden by the Genocide Convention.

3) Iran is a state sponsor of international terrorism.

4) Iran commits major human rights violations against its own people.

Prof Cotler asserts that it is a mistake to focus only on the nuclear threat. This marginalizes the other threats, and allows Iran to proceed as if there is no international concern at these various levels.

Engagement with Iran must deal with all of it. Professor Cotler is working with some 60 international human rights lawyers, who will be releasing a petition very soon that will provide documented evidence of Iranian violations and propose actions to be taken.

Members of Cotler's group will be visiting Western capitals -- 15 have been targeted -- in an attempt to energize specific actions against Iran. Recommendations include comprehensive, calibrated and targeted sanctions:

a) Iran is currently in violation of five sets of UN resolutions,which are not being enforced. The start is the enforcement of these resolutions.

b) Gasoline sanctions: measures against those who export refined petroleum products to Iran, or facilitate such export.

c) Curbing of energy investments in Iran. This would include the energy infrastructure -- shipping, etc.

d) Include the Iranian Central Bank -- which is at the heart of Iranian financial dealings -- in financial sanctions. This has not been done yet.

e) International institutions must be monitored with regard to money laundering for Iran.

f) Companies that facilitate domestic repression in Iran must be sanctioned.

g) Sanction companies that do business with the Revolutionary Guard -- the most vicious and radical element in Iran and the one that now has control. The Guard must be put on terrorism lists.

h) Embargoes must be placed against technology and arms transfers to Iran.

i) Landing permission must be denied to the Iranian transportation industry -- planes and ships. Note: The UN is serving as a third party in money laundering for Iran. Iran has been using a UN office -- The Asia Clearing Union -- to avoid US financial sanctions that forbid dealing with Iran.

These sanctions are only the beginning, however.

Additional Cotler recommendations include:

1) The eight precursors to genocide have already been identified as existing in Iran.

In such a situation, the Genocide Convention calls for specific actions.

HOWEVER, not one single signatory nation has undertaken these actions.

They are not voluntary -- they constitute a legal obligation. Says Cotler: "International legal responsibility is not a "'policy option.'"

1) The issue must be raised in the Security Council and an inter-state complaint must be brought before the International Court of Justice.

2) Interpol, the international criminal police organization, has a warrant out for the arrest of Ahmad Vahidi, the Iranian Minister of Defense, for his role in the 1994 terrorist bombing of the Jewish Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. But the world seems to be ignoring this.

3) It is important to provide solidarity with the Iranian opposition forces -- those challenging the government.

We are not at a tipping point yet, but it may come, and they may in time overturn the current regime.

They need international support.

Professor Cotler says there is no absence of remedy -- the problem is absence of action.

"We are witnesses to the crime of indifference", he concluded.

Indeed, perhaps the most newsworthy aspect of Prof. Cotler's press conference was that Iran Ahmad Vahidi, who has been named the Defense Minister of Iran, is wanted for the mass murder attack of the Jewish community center in Argentina which he masterminded in 1994.

Vahidi was the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards known as the Quds Force when he oversaw that antisemitic terrorist attack.

At the demand of the Argentinian government, Interpol issued a "wanted persons" alert for him in 2007.

Indeed, a quick search on the interpol web site will reveal the fact that, Ahmad Vahidi remains on the active list of people whom Interpol still posts a "wanted" poster for Ahmad Vahidi's arrest..


When Vahidi got his position to oversee the entire military apparatus of Iran earlier this year, a spokesperson for the US State Department simply described Vahidi's nomination as "disturbing".

Editor's note: MP Irwin Cotler was in Winnipeg on Jan 18.  In  a following issue the Winnipeg Jewish Review will give a detailed report of his visit. 

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