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Irwin Cotler


By Rhonda Spivak, July 21,2010

Nearly $15 billion awarded to companies that violated American sanctions law

JERUSALEM- According to an international report released last week by former Canadian Justice Minister and Liberal Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler, over the last decade “ the U.S. government has awarded more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade to foreign and multi-national companies doing business in Iran. That includes nearly $15 billion to companies that violated American sanctions law by making large investments that helped Iran develop its vast oil and gas reserves.”

The report concludes that  “the  American government  has sent  mixed and disturbing messages to the corporate world regarding doing business in Iran by actually rewarding companies whose  commercial transactions conflicted with American national security objectives [emphasis added].”

Cotler held a press conference last week in Jerusalem on behalf of the Canadian based organization  Responsibility to Prevent  Coalition.

Prior to the press conference, Cotler gave the Winnipeg Jewish Review an in-depth interview, in which he referred to the Coalitions’s findings regarding U.S. actions and inactions in this regard as “shocking” and “unbelievable.”

The 200 page report, entitled “The Danger of a Nuclear, Genocidal and Rights-violating Iran: The Responsibility to Prevent Petition”, adds that “It is alarming to appreciate that more than two thirds of U.S. government money went into companies doing business in Iran’s energy sector—thereby serving as an enormous source of revenue for the Iranian government and the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary  Guard Corps].”[emphasis added]

The Responsibility to Prevent Coalition’s report is endorsed by  a 100 scholars, jurists, parliamentarians, human rights activists and former world leaders, including Elie Wiesel, Alan Dershowitz and Winnipeg’s David Matas, and Lloyd Axworthy.

Jerusalem was one of six stops made by Cotler on an international advocacy tour that includes meetings with governments and press in North America, Britain, Australia, Ethiopia and Argentina.

Cotler also levelled criticism at the European Union. Despite an EU call to action on June 17, the EU hasn’t adopted any resolutions against Iran, nor have any European countries. According to Cotler, while Austria’s trade with every other country have decreased over the past year, its trade with Iran has gone up, and German-Iranian trade is worth $6 billion per year with Iran.


The report also outlines several areas where the recent June 9, 2010 U.N  Security Sanctions  fall short of what will be required to prevent Iran’s nuclear drive, including blacklisting Iran’s Central Bank.

Cotler told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, that “The Central Bank of Iran should be blacklisted,” as this would “deal a devastating blow to the financial sector in Iran.”  According to the report, the bank is “embedded in both Iran’s nuclear proliferation and support for terrorism.” The report also advocates prohibiting foreign investment in the Iranian bond market.

As well the report recommends other sanctions, which are not included in the UN sanctions, such as :

Imposing a broad embargo on the supply of arms to Iran

Ordering the complete suspension of Iran’s ballistic missile program  

Completely blacklisting the state-owned Islamic Republic of Iran shipping lines (IRISL), and Iran Air Cargo, the state owned cargo firm. (such that all Iranian ships and cargo would not be able to dock in other countries)  

Imposing a complete travel ban and asset freeze on the IRCG, its members, supporters, front businesses and affiliate groups.

Banning assistance to or investment in Iran’s oil and gas sectors, including  a ban on insurance for imports and exports.

Not allowing Iranian airplanes to land in other countries 

In the interview, Cotler  stressed, that “ we are witnessing in Ahmadinejad’s Iran the toxic convergence of four distinct – yet interrelated – dangers – the nuclear threat; the genocidal incitement threat; the danger of state-sponsored terrorism; and the systematic and widespread violations of the rights of the Iranian people. Accordingly, what is needed is a comprehensive and targeted set of remedies – smart sanctions – to prevent and combat this critical mass of threat.”

In other words, as Cotler  said, “Sanctions by the international community ought to be directed at combating all four threats that Iran poses, not only the nuclear threat [ where sanctions need to be stiffer in any event]. The  international community ought not  sanitize the other three significant threats. Sanctions have to be multi-layered: economic, political, diplomatic and juridical.”


The report calls on individual governments to terminate contracts with companies that facilitate domestic repression and the disruption of free communication in Iran. “Government agencies should also be banned from entering into procurement contract with entities that export technologies used to disrupt the free flow of unbiased information in Iran or otherwise restrict the capacity for free expression in Iran.”

The report also advocates “naming and shaming” sanctions. As Cotler said, “What should be done is naming and shaming corporations that deliver surveillance equipment to the Iranian regime, thereby altering their calculations so that these are not seen to be in their best interest.”

In unveiling this report which contains an “18-point road map’ designed to deal with the four distinct threats posed by Iran, Cotler said, “We want to sound the alarm and wake-up the international community.”


The report indicates that there are steps Canada and other states ought to take to deal with  the fact that “simply put, Iran has already committed a crime of incitement to genocide.”

As Cotler outlined recently in an article in Canada’s National Post  July 13, 2010

“……while the Canadian government has condemned the incendiary and inflammatory calls for "the annihilation of the Jewish State," it has yet to invoke the panoply of mandated legal remedies under the Genocide Convention to hold Ahmadinejad's Iran to account. Indeed, Canada and the G8 countries are all State Parties to the Genocide Convention and therefore such legal remedies are not just policy options; they are international legal obligations of the first order. Accordingly, Canada, pursuant to Article 8 of the Genocide Convention, should refer this genocidal incitement to the UN Security Council for accountability and sanction. Or, Canada could take the lead and initiate an inter-state complaint against Iran, also a State Party to the Genocide Convention, before the International Court of Justice. It could call upon the UN Secretary-General to refer the situation in Iran to the UN Security Council as one threatening international peace and security, pursuant to Article 99 of the UN Charter. It is shocking to appreciate that not one State Party has undertaken its legal responsibilities as mandated under international law to prevent and combat such incitement, particularly with regard to the historical lessons dramatized in the genocides of Srebrenica and Rwanda of such state-sanctioned cultures of hate.”


Cotler said, in regard to the nuclear threat, the Canadian government should invoke and apply the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA), which authorizes it to impose economic sanctions and regulations against a foreign state if "a grave breach of international peace and security has occurred that has resulted or is likely to result in a serious international crisis."

As Cotler said, “To date, the government of Canada has only designated Zimbabwe and Burma under SEMA, even though Ahmadinejad's Iran constitutes a greater global threat to international peace and security.

The full report can be accessed at:


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.