Monday, September 1, 2014

In Lesotho, US Orders Departure of Non-Employed Members of US Mission Personnel, UN's Ban Ki-moon Silent on TV Ban


By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, September 1 -- After Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fled his country to South Africa, the US State Department spokesperson on September 1 stated
"The United States remains deeply concerned by uncertainty over the political process and the state of public security in Lesotho’s capital Maseru.  We continue to call upon government officials and all parties to reach a resolution through peaceful dialogue.  We urge government officials, leaders of the Lesotho Defense Forces, and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service to respect democratic processes in line with the Lesotho Constitution and the rule of law.  Multiparty democracy is important to inclusive political development and economic progress in Lesotho, and any threat to that model would be a setback not only for the nation, but also for democracy in the region. 

"The United States recognizes South Africa’s regional leadership as Chair of the South African Development Community’s Organ for Politics, Defense and Security, and other SADC members as they work with Lesotho’s leaders to reach a political solution.

"The U.S. Embassy in Maseru continues to conduct essential services, but has issued an Emergency Message to U.S. citizens advising that the Department of State has ordered the departure of non-employed family members of U.S. Mission personnel due to concerns over a possible deterioration of the security situation in Lesotho.  The Emergency Message advises that the U.S. Embassy in Lesotho will be open September 2-3 for emergency American Citizens Services only, and that citizens should be aware the Embassy may be forced to suspend operations without advance notice if the security situation deteriorates further.  U.S. citizens seeking assistance in departing Lesotho can contact the U.S. Embassy at USConsularMaseru [at] state.gov."
  On August 31 the UN had echoed the concern, from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, “concerned about the reported military takeover in Lesotho” and “calls for respect for the constitutional order and democratic rule.”
   Ban said nothing about censorship or the media black out.
    But from Johannesburg, the government of South Africa issued a statement that it “has verified that the Lesotho Defense Force did take over the radio and TV stations, resulting in a total black out in broadcast.”
  That seems it might have been a key thing for Ban Ki-moon to mention, especially 15 hours later. But no. This is a trendnoted by the Free UN Coalition for Access
  Meanwhile, this question: who will represent Lesotho at the upcoming UN General Assembly? Here's a speech by Lesotho last fall on de-colonization, French Polynesia and Western Sahara. And this year?

 
  

As South Korea Cracks Down on Questioning of President Park Geun-hye, Ban Ki-moon's UN Notably Silent


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- A recent and ongoing press freedom case in South Korea has echoed all the way to the UN in New York. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was a long-time South Korean diplomat before taking up his UN post. But he has been notably quiet about press freedom generally, and now strikingly, with regard to South Korea.

  The government in Seoul has summoned Sankei Shimbun's Tatsuya Kato on possible charges of defaming President Park Geun-hye, and has blocked him from leaving South Korea in the interim.

  At issue is an article that Tatsuya Kato wrote and Sankei Shimbun published, citing the South Korean publication Chosun Ilbo, that during the sinking of the Sewol ferry in April, President Park was not seen for seven hours and may have been trysting with a recently divorced former aide.

  While understandably causing anger, such a report should not trigger travel bans or criminal charges.

  It is particularly troubling that while Tatsuya Kato of Japan's Sankei has been targeted, the South Korean publication Chosun Ilbo from which he quoted is not being targeted. This disparate treatment of journalists, based on nationality or other factors, should not be tolerated.

  As a comparison, when Afghanistan recently imposed a similar travel ban on a New York Times reporter, not only the US State Department but also many others spoke out.
  But when at the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman was twice -- three times, actually -- asked about South Korea's treatment of Sankei Shimbun's Tatsuya Kato, only platitudes emerged. Continuing the trend on August 31, Ban Ki-moon's comment on the coup in Lesotho did not mention that the military took over the television and radio stations there.
  The day's New York Times recounted how South Korean artist Hong Sung-dam had his painting depicting Park Geun-hye and his view of her role in the sinking of the Sewol ferry censored by authorities in Gwangju.
  Some including the new Free UN Coalition for Access, an anti-censorship alliance established at the UN during and counter to Ban Ki-moon's time in control, have noted a trend toward ignoring some attacks on the media. How far back does it go? What will happen in South Korea, and at the UN? Watch this site.

 
  

Sunday, August 31, 2014

On Lesotho Coup & TV Black-out, UN's Ban Now Concerned, Silent on Censorship, Trend Noted by the Free UN Coalition for Access


By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- After Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane fled his country to South Africa, the US State Department on August 30 said the US “is deeply concerned by clashes between security forces today in Lesotho, and calls upon government officials and all parties to remain committed to peaceful political dialogue and to follow democratic processes in line with the Lesotho Constitution and principles of the rule of law.”
  Fifteen hours later, the US echoed the concerned, from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon: he is “concerned about the reported military takeover in Lesotho” and “calls for respect for the constitutional order and democratic rule.”
   Ban said nothing about censorship or the media black out.
    But from Johannesburg, the government of South Africa issued a statement that it “has verified that the Lesotho Defense Force did take over the radio and TV stations, resulting in a total black out in broadcast.”
  That seems it might have been a key thing for Ban Ki-moon to mention, especially 15 hours later. But no. This is a trend noted by the Free UN Coalition for Access. We'll have more on this.
  Meanwhile, this question: who will represent Lesotho at the upcoming UN General Assembly? Here's a speech by Lesotho last fall on de-colonization, French Polynesia and Western Sahara. And this year?

 
  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

In Golan, UN Says 40 Filipinos Free, 44 Fijians Still Detained, UN Silent On By Whom


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- Two day after the details of the peacekeepers detained and restricted in the Golan Heights were first published here, but with the UN still refusing to say who was detaining and restricting them, UN Peacekeeping at 10 pm on August 30 provided this update:

"The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force reports that shortly after midnight local time on 31 August, during a ceasefire agreed with the armed elements, all the 40 Filipino peacekeepers from UN Position 68 left the position. The 40 peacekeepers arrived in a safe location one hour later."

  But, according to the UN's earlier August 30 statement, "the 44 Fijian peacekeepers of Position 27 remain detained."

   In terms of who is doing the detaining and attacking, the UN Security Council at 5:21 pm on August 30 put out this Press Statement which while vague narrowed it down:
"The members of the Security Council strongly condemned continued attacks today on United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) positions in the Golan Heights.  They reiterated their strong condemnation of the ongoing detention of 44 Fijian peacekeepers from position 27, as well as the surrounding of position 68, where Security Council-designated terrorist groups and non-state armed actors continue to trap 40 Filipino peacekeepers."
   The UN Security Council cites "SC-designated terrorist groups" soon after their resolution on ISIL and Al Nusra.Here's a page with photos and rationale.
 And the "non-state armed actors"? A previous grabbing of Golan peacekeepers, not followed up by UN Peacekeeping's Ladsous, involved the Al-Yarmouk Brigades. Now it's time to name names, something that UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous has for too long refused to do.
   And so we note the reporting, here in Al-Monitor, that "Jabhat al-Nusra, along with Fallujah-Houran Brigade, Syria Revolutionaries Front, Saraya al-Jihad, Bayt al-Maqdis and Ahrar al-Sham, began a battle called 'the real promise' to seize control of the devastated city of Quneitra and the crossing connecting it with the Golan Heights."
  So there are some names. Kidnapped for their own good has also been a line UN Peacekeeping has used. Now some are under fire - but UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous won't say by whom. 
 On August 28 after the UN belated announced that “forty-three peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were detained early this morning an armed group in the vicinity of Al Qunaytirah.. in addition, another eighty-one UNDOF peacekeepers are currently being restricted to their positions in the vicinity of Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah,” Inner City Press began looking into it.
   Soon Inner City Press reported with on the record sourcing that the 43 peacekeepers detained are from Fiji, and that those “restricted” are from the Philippines. This comes after Filipino leadership already said it plans to pull its troops out both the Golan Heights and Liberia. Now what?
The UN confirmed "Fiji and Philippines," but only anonymously, initially to scribes. This is Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping.

 
  

In Golan, UN Evacuated Two More Posts, Still Silent on Which "UNSC Designated Terrorist Groups" and Others Involved


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- Two day after the details of the peacekeepers detained and restricted in the Golan Heights were first published here, but with the UN still refusing to say who was detaining and restricting them, UN Peacekeeping at 7:21 pm on August 30 provided this update:

"The situation on the ground is calm but tense. The 44 Fijians peacekeepers of Position 27 remain detained. Fighting at Position 68 had stopped several hours ago.

"Also today, Observation Post 52, manned by 3 UN military observers and 5 UNDOF soldiers, came under fire. The Mission subsequently evacuated all 8 from the post to a safe location.

"Later, UNDOF evacuated Observation Post 56, manned by 3 peacekeepers, in light of a nearby mobilisation of armed elements. UNDOF is working tirelessly towards the immediate and unconditional release of all the detained peacekeepers."


   In terms of who is doing the detaining and attacking, the UN Security Council at 5:21 pm on August 30 put out this Press Statement which while vague narrowed it down:
"The members of the Security Council strongly condemned continued attacks today on United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) positions in the Golan Heights.  They reiterated their strong condemnation of the ongoing detention of 44 Fijian peacekeepers from position 27, as well as the surrounding of position 68, where Security Council-designated terrorist groups and non-state armed actors continue to trap 40 Filipino peacekeepers."
   The UN Security Council cites "SC-designated terrorist groups" soon after their resolution on ISIL and Al Nusra.Here's a page with photos and rationale.
 And the "non-state armed actors"? A previous grabbing of Golan peacekeepers, not followed up by UN Peacekeeping's Ladsous, involved the Al-Yarmouk Brigades. Now it's time to name names, something that UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous has for too long refused to do.
   And so we note the reporting, here in Al-Monitor, that "Jabhat al-Nusra, along with Fallujah-Houran Brigade, Syria Revolutionaries Front, Saraya al-Jihad, Bayt al-Maqdis and Ahrar al-Sham, began a battle called 'the real promise' to seize control of the devastated city of Quneitra and the crossing connecting it with the Golan Heights."
  So there are some names. Kidnapped for their own good has also been a line UN Peacekeeping has used. Now some are under fire - but UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous won't say by whom. 
 On August 28 after the UN belated announced that “forty-three peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were detained early this morning an armed group in the vicinity of Al Qunaytirah.. in addition, another eighty-one UNDOF peacekeepers are currently being restricted to their positions in the vicinity of Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah,” Inner City Press began looking into it.
   Soon Inner City Press reported with on the record sourcing that the 43 peacekeepers detained are from Fiji, and that those “restricted” are from the Philippines. This comes after Filipino leadership already said it plans to pull its troops out both the Golan Heights and Liberia. Now what?
The UN confirmed "Fiji and Philippines," but only anonymously, initially to scribes. This is Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping.

 
  

UN Review of US on Race Includes Redlining, Foreclosures & Stand Your Ground


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- The crackdown in Ferguson, Missouri, after the killing of unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown was the context of the just-concluded UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination review of the US, along with unfair lending.Report here.

  After the Trayvon Martin case, the UN CERD said it "is concerned at the high number of gun-related deaths and injuries which disproportionately affect members of racial and ethnic minorities, particularly African Americans. It is also concerned at the proliferation of 'Stand Your Ground' laws, which are used to circumvent the limits of legitimate self-defense in violation of the State party’s duty to protect life, and has a disproportionate and discriminatory impact on members of racial and ethnic minorities."

   As to housing and lending discrimination, the UN CERD's "Concluding observations on the combined seventh to ninth periodic reports of United States of America," published on August 29, 2014, said 

"the Committee remains concerned at: (a) the persistence of discrimination in access to housing on the basis of race, colour, ethnicity or national origin; (b) the high degree of racial segregation and concentrated poverty in neighborhoods characterized by sub-standard conditions and services, including poor housing conditions, limited employment opportunities, inadequate access to health-care facilities, under-resourced schools and high exposure to crime and violence; and (c) discriminatory mortgage lending practices and the foreclosure crisis which disproportionately affected and continues to affect racial and ethnic minorities (arts. 3 and 5(e))."
  The UN CERD Committee's Concerns and Recommendations included:
The Committee urges the State party to intensify its efforts to eliminate discrimination in access to housing and residential segregation based on race, colour ethnicity or national origin, including by:

(a) Ensuring the availability of affordable and adequate housing for all, including by effectively implementing the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing requirement by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and across all agencies administering housing programmes;

(b) Strengthening the implementation of legislation to combat discrimination in housing, such as the Fair Housing Act and Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, including through the provision of adequate resources and increasing the capacity of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; and

(c) Undertaking prompt, independent and thorough investigation into all cases of discriminatory practices by private actors, including in relation to discriminatory mortgage lending practices, steering, and redlining; holding those responsible to account; and providing effective remedies, including appropriate compensation, guarantees of non-repetition and changes in relevant laws and practices.
  Private actors means banks. But why were the bank regulatory agencies and CFPB not included in the US' delegation to the CERD? We'll have more on this.
   On Ferguson, at the UN on August 13 Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's lead spokesman about the killing and crackdown. Video here.
  The UN spokesman began by saying that Ban and the UN have "no particular comment," then added that "as in all cases, the right to demonstrate peacefully needs to be respected, and investigations need to be conducted." Okay, then.
    There have been reports mentioned the financial institutions in the Ferguson area, including nationwide lendersBank of AmericaUS Bank and Fifth Third.
  Inner City Press and Fair Finance Watch reviewed the demographics of mortgage lending by these three in the area in the most recent year for which data is publicly available, 2012.
   In the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area in 2012, Bank of America denied the conventional home purchase mortgage applications of African Americans 1.81 times more frequently then those of whites.

  Fair Finance Watch has previously objected to US Bank's stealth branch closings, including in Chicago, here and here. The US Community Reinvestment Act requires banks to lend fairly in all of their communities, but is not sufficiently enforced, FFW and NCRC have shown.
For US Bank, the disparities was 1.6 to 1; for Fifth Third Mortgage, that company's lender, it was a whopping 4.95 to 1: African American applicants were denied 4.95 times more frequently than whites, worse that the aggregate (all lenders). 
  Troublingly, for all lenders Latinos were denied 3.1 times more frequently than than whites. So where is the US headed? Watch this site.

 
  

In Golan, After UN Security Council Cites "SC-Designated" & Armed Groups, Here's Quneitra Names


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- Two day after the details of the peacekeepers detained and restricted in the Golan Heights were first published here, but with the UN still refusing to say who was detaining and restricting them, the UN Security Council at 5:21 pm on August 30 put out this Press Statement which while vague narrowed it down:

"The members of the Security Council strongly condemned continued attacks today on United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) positions in the Golan Heights.  They reiterated their strong condemnation of the ongoing detention of 44 Fijian peacekeepers from position 27, as well as the surrounding of position 68, where Security Council-designated terrorist groups and non-state armed actors continue to trap 40 Filipino peacekeepers."

   The UN Security Council cites "SC-designated terrorist groups" soon after their resolution on ISIL and Al Nusra.

 And the "non-state armed actors"? A previous grabbing of Golan peacekeepers, not followed up by UN Peacekeeping's Ladsous, involved the Al-Yarmouk Brigades. Now it's time to name names, something that UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous has for too long refused to do.

   And so we note the reporting, here in Al-Monitor, that "Jabhat al-Nusra, along with Fallujah-Houran Brigade, Syria Revolutionaries Front, Saraya al-Jihad, Bayt al-Maqdis and Ahrar al-Sham, began a battle called 'the real promise' to seize control of the devastated city of Quneitra and the crossing connecting it with the Golan Heights."
  So there are some names. Kidnapped for their own good has also been a line UN Peacekeeping has used. Now some are under fire - but UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous won't say by whom. 
 On August 28 after the UN belated announced that “forty-three peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were detained early this morning an armed group in the vicinity of Al Qunaytirah.. in addition, another eighty-one UNDOF peacekeepers are currently being restricted to their positions in the vicinity of Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah,” Inner City Press began looking into it.
   Soon Inner City Press reported with on the record sourcing that the 43 peacekeepers detained are from Fiji, and that those “restricted” are from the Philippines. This comes after Filipino leadership already said it plans to pull its troops out both the Golan Heights and Liberia. Now what?
The UN confirmed "Fiji and Philippines," but only anonymously, initially to scribes. This is Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping.

 
  

In Golan Peacekeepers Trapped, UN Security Council Cites "SC-Designated Terrorist Groups," While Ladsous' DPKO Still Silent on Who's Doing It


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- Two day after the nationalities and details of the peacekeepers detained and restricted in the Golan Heights were first published here, but while the UN still refused to say who was detaining and restricting them, the UN Security Council at 5:21 pm on August 30 put out this Press Statement which narrowed it down:

"The members of the Security Council strongly condemned continued attacks today on United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) positions in the Golan Heights.  They reiterated their strong condemnation of the ongoing detention of 44 Fijian peacekeepers from position 27, as well as the surrounding of position 68, where Security Council-designated terrorist groups and non-state armed actors continue to trap 40 Filipino peacekeepers.  The members demanded the immediate and unconditional release of these peacekeepers, as well as their safe passage.

"The members of the Security Council welcomed news that 32 Filipino peacekeepers from position 69 were extricated to safety.   They insisted that UNDOF’s mandate, impartiality, operations, safety, and security must be respected.  They called upon all parties to cooperate with UNDOF in good faith to enable it to operate freely and to ensure full security of its personnel.  They also called upon countries with influence to strongly convey to those responsible in the UNDOF area of operation to immediately release the peacekeepers. The members of the Security Council reaffirmed their unconditional support for UNDOF."

   The UN Security Council cites "SC-designated terrorist groups" soon after their resolution on ISIL and Al Nusra; the Al Qaida sanctions committee maintains a list. 

   On August 15 the Security Council added to its terrorist designations individuals in the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.  Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIL or the Islamic State  has been listed since October, 2011.


 And "non-state armed actors"? A previous grabbing of Golan peacekeepers, not followed up by UN Peacekeeping's Ladsous, involved the Al-Yarmouk Brigades. Now it's time to name names, something that UN Peacekeeping under Herve Ladsous has for too long refused to do.

  On August 29 the US said Vice President Biden
"spoke with President Aquino of the Philippines today to express U.S. support for the Filipino peacekeepers currently surrounded by armed non-state groups in the Golan Heights.  The two leaders discussed their shared interest in strengthening UN peacekeeping operations.  The Vice President praised the commitment of the Philippines over many years to UN peacekeeping missions, including in Liberia, where the support of the international community remains critical to addressing the Ebola outbreak.  The two leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to a strong bilateral alliance."
   If they really want to "strengthen UN peacekeeping operations," they should take a look at the top, and what was done (or wasn't) after previous attacks on peacekeepers in the Golan -- and refusal to answer questions about human rights abuses by UN Peacekeeping's partners.
 On August 28 after the UN belated announced that “forty-three peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were detained early this morning an armed group in the vicinity of Al Qunaytirah.. in addition, another eighty-one UNDOF peacekeepers are currently being restricted to their positions in the vicinity of Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah,” Inner City Press began looking into it.
And hour an half later, Inner City Press understands that Syria's Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari met with UN Peacekeeping. Chief Herve Ladsous, who previously did little to nothing when Filipino peacekeepers were taken hostage, was not present. So Ja'fari met with Edmond Mulet, whom Inner City Press then witnessed going into the Security Council at 11:30 am.
Inner City Press was informed on the record by Syrian Ambassador Ja'afari that the 43 peacekeepers detained are from Fiji, and that those “restricted” are from the Philippines. This comes after Filipino leadership already said it plans to pull its troops out both the Golan Heights and Liberia. Now what?
The UN has confirmed "Fiji and Philippines," but only anonymously, initially to scribes. This is Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping.

 
  

In Golan, 32 Detainees Extricated, Others Under Fire, UN Won't Say By Whom


By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- Two day after the nationalities and details of the peacekeepers detained and restricted in the Golan Heights were first published here, the UN put this out at 12:35 pm on August 30:
The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) reports that, early this morning, UN Position 69 was fired upon by armed elements. The Mission’s Force Reaction Group has been deployed to the position and all 32 Filipino personnel from this position have been extricated and are now safe.

UNDOF reports that armed elements also attacked UN Position 68 with mortar and heavy machine gun fire. The UN peacekeepers returned fire and prevented the attackers from entering the position. Position 68 is currently under fire, preventing the personnel from moving out.

UNDOF has also withdrawn personnel from Observation Post 52 as a precautionary measure after firing in their vicinity. We are still working towards the safe release of the detained 44 Fijian peacekeepers from Position 27. There are no reported casualties amongst UN personnel.
  Kidnapped for their own good was a line UN Peacekeeping previously used. Now some are under fire - but the UN won't say by whom. 
  On August 29 the US said Vice President Biden
"spoke with President Aquino of the Philippines today to express U.S. support for the Filipino peacekeepers currently surrounded by armed non-state groups in the Golan Heights.  The two leaders discussed their shared interest in strengthening UN peacekeeping operations.  The Vice President praised the commitment of the Philippines over many years to UN peacekeeping missions, including in Liberia, where the support of the international community remains critical to addressing the Ebola outbreak.  The two leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to a strong bilateral alliance."
   If they really want to "strengthen UN peacekeeping operations," they should take a look at the top, and what was done (or wasn't) after previous attacks on peacekeepers in the Golan -- and refusal to answer questions about human rights abuses by UN Peacekeeping's partners.
 On August 28 after the UN belated announced that “forty-three peacekeepers from the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) were detained early this morning an armed group in the vicinity of Al Qunaytirah.. in addition, another eighty-one UNDOF peacekeepers are currently being restricted to their positions in the vicinity of Ar Ruwayhinah and Burayqah,” Inner City Press began looking into it.
And hour an half later, Inner City Press understands that Syria's Permanent Representative Bashar Ja'afari met with UN Peacekeeping. Chief Herve Ladsous, who previously did little to nothing when Filipino peacekeepers were taken hostage, was not present. So Ja'fari met with Edmond Mulet, whom Inner City Press then witnessed going into the Security Council at 11:30 am.
Inner City Press was informed on the record by Syrian Ambassador Ja'afari that the 43 peacekeepers detained are from Fiji, and that those “restricted” are from the Philippines. This comes after Filipino leadership already said it plans to pull its troops out both the Golan Heights and Liberia. Now what?
The UN has confirmed "Fiji and Philippines," but only anonymously, initially to scribes. This is Ladsous' UN Peacekeeping.

 
  

After US' New Iran-Related Sanctions, Rouhani Slams Them, NY Trip for UN General Assembly UNclear, Jason Rezaian UNaddressed


By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 30 -- Amid the P5+1 Iran talks, the US on August 29 announced new Iran-related sanctions. It targeted among others banks, including Tajikistan-based Kafolatbank, “owned by Sarmayeh Bank, which was identified as an Iranian financial institution by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in July 2012.”

    On August 30, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani held a lengthy press conference in Tehran, saying on this that of the P5+1 group the other country whose good will is in doubt is the United States. 

  He denounced the sanctions and said it is unclear if he'll go to the UN General Assembly week in New York or to the “environmental meeting” just before it. If not, Foreign Minister Zarif will lead the delegation.

  Journalists Jason Rezaian and Yeganeh Salehi were asked about, but the question was not answered. The Free UN Coalition for Access believes it should be, as other press freedom questions should not go UNaddressed.

  Just as the US has said it will not coordinate with Iran in striking ISIL, Rouhani said while fighting terrorism if good, Iran will not cooperate or coordinate with the US. One wondered, was this a coordinated statement, or just each side playing to some home-country sentiments?

   On a background call on August 29 with Senior Administration Officials, many of the questions were about Russia (they were not answered, at least not on the call).
  Back on July 18 as the deadline for the Iran nuclear talks loomed, the Joint Plan of Action was extended until November 24. 
  Three Senior US Administration Officials (SAOs) held a press call on background. The first SAO spoke against moves in Congress to legislate on new or future sanctions, saying that could undermine P5+1 unity.
  The second SAO said that while the US is concerned about Iran's activities in Syria, in Gaza and in Iraq, only long-range missiles that could carry nuclear weapons would be addressed in the talks.
  The third SAO bragged that $2.8 billion in the next four months will not begin to fix Iran's economy, and that the US will emphasize that Iran is not open for business, its central bank is under sanctions.
  But didn't BNP Paribas still do business in Iran? On a related note, France's outgoing ambassador to the UN Gerard Araud on July 18 said the the Mistral ships being sold "are not destroyers but transportation and command ships." (A reply: they are amphibious assault vessels.) With this attitude, what's next?
 Back on June 16 with the P5+1 talks starting in Vienna, the question arose how ISIL's advance in Iraq might impact them. 
  On June 16 a Senior State Department Official told the press, "We are open to engaging the Iranians, just as we are engaging other regional players on the threat post by ISIL in Iraq. The issue did come up briefly with Iran on the margins of the P5+1 in Vienna today, separate from our trilateral meeting. These engagements will not include military coordination or strategic determinations about Iraq’s future over the heads of the Iraqi people. We will discuss how ISIL threatens many countries in the region, including Iran, and the need to support inclusivity in Iraq and refrain from pressing a sectarian agenda."
  Earlier on June 16 a US Senior Administration Official told reporters the issue does not give Iran more leverage, while talks about Iraq may occur "on the margins," that is separate from the P5+1 process. 
  Asked of timing, the US official said "we are all focused on July 20... we can get this done."  We'll continue to follow this.
Watch this site.