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Are American Courts and Universities Targeting Iran?

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Damascus University

Were  one to credit some current predictions of  book-makers in the world’s top five gambling loses per capita countries, Australia, Singapore, Ireland, Canada, and Finland, on whether there will be an agreement on the Iranian nuclear file next month, a prudent  person would likely not bet one Iranian Rial that there will be. This caution is widespread even though the wager would involve a rather limited risk. One friend of this observer, a casino manager in Macau emailed this week that a main reason for the lopsided odds is because the Israeli pushed & US-led sanctions have collapsed the Iranian Rial which as of this week remains the world’s least valued currency unit, selling yesterday for 27,628 per 1 USD.  And for more than double that on Tehran’s black market alleys.   Apparently, and not alone, bookies reason that despite hopes for an acceptable agreement in the White House and  parts of Washington as well as in parts of Tehran, the geostrategic gaps over the numbers of enrichment facilities and time table for sanctions relief are simply too wide and unbridgeable given current  domestic political constraints. Not helping US-Iran nuclear agreement prospects are headlines this week in Western media outlets that scream:  “Iran still stalling UN nuclear inquiry as deal deadline looms: IAEA!” and “IAEA says Iran not addressed specific issues and is withholding full cooperation with UN watchdog investigation.”

But, bookies have been wrong before.

And so have U.S. Federal Courts and American University administrators particularly when nudged by the rabidly anti-Iranian anti-Muslim Zionist lobby. Two recent examples illustrate how American courts and Universities are participating in, and indeed promoting, anti-Iranian sentiments among the US public  for political purposes while damaging their respective institutions.

One is an egregious ruling handed down this month by Richard J. Leon who since 2002 has served as a Federal Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. A graduate of Suffolk University night law school in Boston, Judge Leon is known around DC legal circles for his tough courtroom demeanor which sometimes intimates lawyers, especially new ones. The judge often interrupts an objecting lawyer during trial, ordering him to “sit right down.”  Many lawyers just get used to Judge Leon’s judicial demeanor.

Still, it reportedly surprised many to learn of the Judge’s ruling in the case against Fokker Services BV, for exporting U.S. origin aircraft parts to Iran. The defendants have been charged  with a five-year conspiracy to violate and evade United States export laws for the benefit, largely, of Iran and its military during our post-9/11 world when the US government is busy fighting  at least two global wars on “terrorism.”

As the case headed to trial, as often happens, a Deferred Prosecution Agreement was worked out between the Federal prosecutors and defendants Fokker Services BV for several reasons,  including the fact that the defendants cooperated with the government in wheeling in bigger fish allegedly doing sanctions-busting business with Iran and because the U.S. government’s  case appeared fairly weak.

But to the surprise of both sides, Judge Leon rejected the DPA as too lenient because of 9/11 and Iran’s heretofore unknown role in that terror attack. In case some of we untutored, and lawyers who were in his courtroom when the Federal judge made the very bizarre ruling, thought good Judge Leon could not possibly be serious and was only joshing when he accused Iran of involvement in 9/11, he made his ruling a second time with more emphasis adding some rather stretchy dicta.

Did dear reader know heretofore that Iran attacked America on September 11? No, neither did I, but Judge Richard Leon indicated otherwise and made clear he thinks Iran was behind 9-11 and this belief appears to be the central reason he rejected the Deferred Prosecution Agreement in the case against Fokker Services BV.

Ruled the honorable U.S. Federal District judge: “After looking at the Deferred Prosecution Agreement in its totality, I cannot help but conclude that the DPA presented here is grossly disproportionate to the gravity of Fokker Services’ conduct in a post-9/11 world. In my judgment, it would undermine the public’s confidence in the administration of justice and promote disrespect for the law for it to see a defendant prosecuted so anemically for engaging in such egregious conduct for such a sustained period of time and for the benefit of one of our country’s worst enemies.”

So, in the end, , the governments weak case, defendants Fokker’s voluntary disclosure, its cooperation with the government and its remedial actions mean nothing. Why?  Because as Judge Leon instructs the public and the American judiciary, for sure Iran somehow or other didSeptember 11. Obviously this observer graduated from the wrong Boston law school and didn’t fall asleep during evidence class as Judge Leon admits he sometimes did which attending night school.

Equally bizarre as the “Iran did it” ruling in U.S. Federal court this month, is a case which involves a Boston area institution of higher learning, the University of Massachusetts. If some American courts are obfuscating the Legislative, Judicial and Executive Separation of Powers provisions in the U.S. constitution, specifically, Article I, Section 1, Article II, Section 1 and Article III, Section 1 in order to target Iran, what has become of our institutions of higher learning when political pressures from some corners threaten to withhold funding in order to pressure college administrators to penalized Iranian students for wanting to advance their education?

A UMass (Amherst) decision this month to stop admitting Iranian nationals to certain engineering and science programs has stirred charges of discrimination and a backlash among students who say it was unfairly imposed and could hurt the school’s reputation.

The dispute stems from the United States’ efforts to prevent the Iranian government from developing a nuclear weapon, which prompted a 2012 law that excludes Iranian nationals from studying in America if they planned to work in nuclear or energy fields. UMass Amherst administrators based their decision on a law Congress enacted in 2012. The “Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012,” restricts Iranian citizens from education in United States if they were preparing for a career in the energy sector or nuclear science in Iran. The sponsors of the legislation, drafted by AIPAC, claimed that those students could then go on and work on Iran’s nuclear program.

Enforcement of that law is the responsibility of the State Department, which issues visas, and the Department of Homeland Security, which investigates threats. Generally, universities have depended on those agencies to weed out potential students seen as risks and academic institutions do not get involved.

But apparently no longer.

Last week, the University of Massachusetts said that it would simply bar all Iranian nationals from enrolling in certain graduate programs in its College of Engineering and College of National Sciences among them physics, chemistry, microbiology, polymer science, chemical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, as well as mechanical and industrial engineering.  The scope of these U Mass prohibitions is much broader than covered in the 2012 law. The university released a statement saying the ban was prompted by an inquiry from a student, who reportedly turned out to be from Hillel House, but UMass did not provide any details  of who pushed to act against Iranian students but instead insisted that “We have no choice but to institute policies and procedure to ensure that we are in full compliance with all applicable laws.”

There is so much wrong and blatantly discriminatory about the U Mass policy decision that it was no surprise that just as its bizarre decision was likely to explode into a national education scandal that U Mass has just backed down. Apparently after consulting with the State Department and outside counsel, the university now says it will reverse the ban. A weak explanation from Michael Malone, vice chancellor for research and engagement at UMass Amherst who apparently sensed the odds changing for keeping U Mass disenfranchisement of qualified Iranian students from its programs was issued late last night.   “Actually, we have always believed that excluding students from admission conflicts with our institutional values and principles. It is now clear, after further consultation and deliberation, that we can adopt a less restrictive policy.”

One UMass professor was quoted in the Harvard Crimson as saying that “All’s well that ends well. The UMass administration is satisfied that the Zionist lobby will keep channeling funds, the State Department is satisfied that a crisis was avoided that might have affected negatively the Iranian nuclear file and U Mass came out came out smelling like roses!”

Like roses ?

Not according to a reported majority of the UMass student body and Americans who value academic independence, freedom of expression and keeping foreign political interests from corrupting American institutions of learning.

Franklin Lamb’s most recent book, Syria’s Endangered Heritage, An international Responsibility to Protect and Preserve is in production by Orontes River Publishing, Hama, Syrian Arab Republic. Inquires c/o orontesriverpublishing@gmail.com. The author is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com

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Franklin Lamb volunteers with the Lebanon, France, and USA based Meals for Syrian Refugee Children Lebanon (MSRCL) which seeks to provide hot nutritional meals to Syrian and other refugee children in Lebanon. http://mealsforsyrianrefugeechildrenlebanon.com. He is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com.

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