EU plans to "put an end" to Iran’s satellite jamming

The Gaezzet

The European Union will announce plans on Monday to take steps against Iran’s jamming of foreign satellite broadcasts, a move that shows a willingness to take firm unilateral measures against Tehran.
The initiative is separate to U.S.-led efforts to secure another round of U.N. sanctions against Iran’s nuclear programme, but it is an indication that the EU would be prepared to act on its own against Iran if a U.N. resolution fails.
The draft of an EU foreign ministers’ declaration to be issued on Monday expresses "grave concern" at measures taken by the Iranian authorities to block citizens’ access to foreign TV and radio satellite broadcasts and to the Internet.
"The EU is determined to pursue these issues and to act with a view to put an end to this unacceptable situation," reads the draft, obtained by Reuters. Diplomats said the intention was to take concrete action, not just issue a verbal warning.
It is not clear what steps EU member states could take to stop the jamming, which involves Iran’s blocking of transmissions by French satellite operator Eutelsat and affects the BBC and Deutsche Welle, among other broadcasters.
But French newspaper Le Figaro reported last week it could include blocking the export of equipment made by companies such as Siemens and Nokia that makes it possible to intercept email and mobile phone conversations.
In that respect, the EU’s move would constitute a testing of the waters of how further, deeper sanctions could be imposed against Iran’s uranium enrichment programme by the West if U.N.-backed sanctions were to fail.
"U.N. sanctions on Iran are a separate issue, but you could see this (the EU move on Iranian jamming) as part of overall efforts to lay the ground for tighter sanctions going forward," a senior EU diplomat said.
Winning U.N. Security Council backing for a fourth round of sanctions remains the priority for the United States, Britain, France and Germany – the four countries driving the effort to secure a resolution.
But the originally hoped-for February deadline for getting a deal has passed, with China remaining adamantly opposed and Russia also reluctant, if more amenable than Beijing.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said last week it may now take until June to get backing from all five permanent Security Council members and even then he said he wasn’t sure a deal could be reached.
With the clock ticking – the United States referred to the need for "crippling" sanctions at the start of the year – EU officials are increasingly talking about "autonomous" action, which means the European Union, the United States and their allies imposing unilateral measures on Tehran.
Finland’s foreign minister, Alexander Stubb, said last week a Security Council resolution remained the goal, "but failing that, we’ll just have to do it unilaterally and by unilateral I mean the EU directly on Iran".
"Time is running out," he added, saying he believed there was "consensus enough" within the European Union for autonomous measures, which would likely target Iranian banks and insurance companies and specific members of the Revolutionary Guard.
Officially no discussion of any unilateral EU-U.S. measures will be discussed until it is clear a Security Council resolution is not going to be possible. But informally those conversations are already going on, EU diplomatic sources say, and companies that do business in Iran have taken note.
Siemens, with annual sales of 500 million euros ($680 million U.S.) in Iran, said in January it would not accept any new orders from Tehran, and two large German insurance companies – Munich Re and Allianz – said last month they would also wind up business there as pressure for sanctions grows.Read more


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