US approved business with Iran, other blacklisted nations

New York, Dec. 24 (ANI): The United States Government granted special licenses to American companies to do billions of dollars in business with Iran and other nations blacklisted as state sponsors of terrorism, a New York Times report reveals.

According to the NYT, a little-known office of the Treasury Department made nearly 10,000 exceptions to American sanctions rules, approving deals involving countries that have been cast into economic purgatory, beyond the reach of American business.

Enforcement of America's sanctions rests with the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which can make exceptions with guidance from the State Department.

The Treasury office initially resisted disclosing information about the licenses, but after The NYT filed a federal Freedom of Information lawsuit, the government agreed to turn over a list of companies granted exceptions and, in a little more than 100 cases, underlying files explaining the nature and details of the deals.

The process took three years, and the government heavily redacted many documents, saying they contained trade secrets and personal information.

Most of the licenses were approved under a decade-old law mandating that agricultural and medical humanitarian aid be exempted from sanctions.

But the law, pushed by the farm lobby and other industry groups, was written so broadly that allowable humanitarian aid has included cigarettes, Wrigley's gum, Louisiana hot sauce, weight-loss remedies, body-building supplements and sports rehabilitation equipment sold to the institute that trains Iran's Olympic athletes.

Hundreds of other licenses were approved because they passed a litmus test.

They were deemed to serve American foreign policy goals.

In one instance, an American company was permitted to bid on a pipeline job that would have helped Iran sell natural gas to Europe, even though the United States opposes such projects.

Several other American businesses were permitted to deal with foreign companies believed to be involved in terrorism or weapons proliferation.

In one such case, involving equipment bought by a medical waste disposal plant in Hawaii, the government was preparing to deny the license until an influential politician intervened.

In an interview, the Obama administration's point man on sanctions, Stuart A. Levey, said that focusing on the exceptions "misses the forest for the trees."

Levey, a Treasury under secretary who held the same job in the Bush administration, pointed out that the United States did far less business with Iran than did China or Europe; in the first quarter of this year, 0.02 percent of American exports went to Iran. (ANI)

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