Pressuring the Emirates on Iran—and Sudan?

By Ben Chapin,
Intern, Crimes Against Humanity Program

Responding to intense diplomatic pressure, the United Arab Emirates has reportedly shuttered 40 international and domestic firms in order to comply with the latest round of United Nations sanctions aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. In light of the strong strategic partnership between the United States and the United Arab Emirates, this episode underscores the leverage the Obama Administration can bring to bear on the Emirates when it wishes to urge compliance with international law. Iran is not the U.A.E.’s only pariah trading partner. Sudan is another—and one that has proven capable of committing horrific crimes. The U.A.E. has at least allowed commercial entities inside its borders to supply materials to the government of Sudan, some of which end up in Darfur—in violation of the UN arms embargo.

According to a 2009 report by the UN expert panel charged with monitoring the embargo, the official Toyota dealership and second-hand dealers in the United Arab Emirates were together the largest single source of trucks that were turned into “technicals” and used in Darfur. These militarized civilian vehicles, which are most commonly Toyota pickup trucks mounted with heavy weaponry, are used by militias, rebels, and government forces alike to commit attacks across the vast desert region in western Sudan. Despite the international community’s rhetorical commitment to stopping the violence in Darfur, no attempt has been made to interrupt that supply or other trading activities that enable the continued bloodshed.

Now that the U.S. and U.A.E. governments have shown what they can do when they have the will, civilians in Darfur—and the UN embargo that is supposed to protect them—deserve their attention. With all eyes turning to South Sudan despite attacks on Darfuri civilians, violence that used to command hourly attention across the world will continue unless the U.S. government shows the will to press for prompt and decisive action

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Published on June 23, 2010

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