Ireland’s Radical Israel-Boycott Bill Could Have Devastating Consequences—for Ireland

July 12 2018

Yesterday, the upper house of the Irish legislature passed a bill that would forbid doing business with “settlements” anywhere in the world. If it becomes law, Orde Kittrie writes, it will have serious and perhaps disastrous consequences:

While the bill does not mention Israel or Palestine, the Irish senator Frances Black and its other cosponsors have declared that it was designed to prohibit transactions relating to Israeli settlers and settlements in the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. Black previously signed a letter calling for a boycott of all Israeli products and services. Even though there are several contentious occupations closer to Europe—including Russia’s occupation of Crimea, Turkey’s occupation of Northern Cyprus, and Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara—the Irish bill is drafted to apply only to Israeli settlements.

The bill, if enacted, would put at risk Ireland’s economic links to the United States, which are vital to Irish prosperity. The U.S. in 2017 accounted for 67 percent of all foreign direct investment in Ireland. Yet this bill could make U.S. companies with divisions or subsidiaries in Ireland, Irish companies with divisions or subsidiaries in the U.S., and their employees who are Irish citizens or resident in Ireland, choose between violating the Irish law and violating the anti-boycott provisions of the U.S. Export Administration regulations. Violations of these U.S. anti-boycott laws are punishable by fines and by imprisonment for up to ten years.

Some 700 U.S. companies currently employ over 155,000 people in Ireland. These companies include Apple, whose Irish operations currently make it Ireland’s largest company. . . . If the Irish bill becomes law, it could create problems for companies like Apple. Many components inside Apple’s iPhones are made in Israel. Apple’s second largest research-and-development office is located in Herzliya, and several key Apple suppliers are located elsewhere in Israel. If an engineer in Apple’s Herzliya office lives in Jerusalem, and telecommutes from home for a day, will Apple be at risk of providing a settlement service in violation of Irish law?

While Ireland considers Jerusalem an Israeli settlement, the U.S. government recognizes it as Israel’s capital. If Apple fires an engineer because it wants to avoid problems with Irish law and he insists on telecommuting from his Jerusalem home, would Apple be violating U.S. law by participating in Ireland’s boycott of Israeli settlements?

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More about: BDS, Ireland, Israel & Zionism, Settlements, U.S. Foreign policy

Russia Has No Interest in Curbing Iran in Syria—Despite Putin’s Assurances

July 20 2018

In his joint press conference on Monday with Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump stated that in their meeting he had brought up U.S. concerns about the Islamic Republic’s malign influence in the Middle East, and that he’d “made clear [to Putin] that the United States will not allow Iran to benefit from [America’s] successful campaign against Islamic State.” It does not appear, however, that any concrete agreements were reached. To Alexandra Gutowski and Caleb Weiss, it’s clear that agreements will do little, since Putin can’t be trusted to keep his word:

In late June, Russia began to unleash hundreds of airstrikes on [the southwestern Syrian province of] Deraa, in flagrant violation of the U.S.-Russian cease-fire agreement that Trump and Putin personally endorsed last November. While Russia struck from the air, forces nominally under the control of Damascus conducted a major ground offensive.

Closer examination shows that the dividing line between Assad’s military and Iranian-aligned forces has become ever blurrier. Before the offensive began, Lebanese Hizballah and other Iranian-backed militias staged apparent withdrawals from the region, only to return after donning [Assad]-regime uniforms and hiding their banners and insignia. Tehran is also directly involved. On July 2, a senior commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) died in Deir al-Adas, a village in northern Deraa province along the strategic M5 highway. Persian sources describe him as the commander for the province. [In fact], forces nominally under the control of Damascus are permeated with troops that are at least as close to Tehran. . . .

It’s also becoming clear that Russian aircraft are supporting the efforts of Iranian-backed units nominally under the control of Damascus. . . . Russia has also now deployed military police to hold terrain captured by Iranian-aligned forces, demonstrating a level of coordination as well as Russia’s unwillingness to use its forces for more dangerous offensive operations. These terrain-holding forces free up Iran-aligned actors to continue undertaking offensives toward the Golan.

Reported meetings between militia commanders and Russian officers suggest these operations are coordinated. But even without formal coordination, Russian air cover and Iranian ground offensives are mutually dependent and reinforcing. Iran can’t be in the sky, and Russia refuses to put significant forces on the ground, lest too many return home in body bags. Thus, Putin requires Iran’s forces on the ground to secure his ambitions in Syria.

President Trump should remain highly skeptical of Putin’s interest in serving as a partner in Syria and his ability to do so. The humanitarian relief Putin proposes [for postwar reconstruction] is designed to fortify the regime, not to rehabilitate children brutalized by Assad. Putin also has limited interest in curtailing Iran’s deployment. Russia itself admits that Iran’s withdrawal is “absolutely unrealistic.” Trump should not concede American positions, notably the strategic base at Tanf which blocks Iran’s path to the Mediterranean, for empty promises from Russia. Putin can afford to lie to America, but he can’t afford to control Syria without Iranian support.

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More about: Donald Trump, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy, Vladimir Putin