When is a sanction against a rogue nation not really a sanction? When the U.S. Treasury deems it so, with the help of lobbyists and heavily redacted documents. The U.S. policy of opposing the Iranian government but supporting the people has seen more than humanitarian aid to that country as well as North Korea and Cuba.
Mars Inc., which owns Wrigley’s. “We debated that one for a month. Was it food? Did it have nutritional value? We concluded it did,” Hal Eren, a former senior sanctions adviser at the licensing office, recalled before pausing and conceding, “We were probably rolled on that issue by outside forces.”
While Cuba was the primary focus of the initial legislative push, Iran, with its relative wealth and large population, was also a promising prospect. American exports, virtually nonexistent before the law’s passage, have totaled more than $1.7 billion since…
Even the sale of benign goods can benefit bad actors, though, which is why the licensing office and State Department are required to check the purchasers of humanitarian aid products for links to terrorism. But that does not always happen.
In its application to sell salt substitutes, marinades, food colorings and cake sprinkles in Iran, McCormick & Co. listed a number of chain stores that planned to buy its products. A quick check of the Web site of one store, Refah, revealed that its major investors were banks on an American blacklist. The government of Tehran owns Shahrvand, another store listed in the license. A third chain store, Ghods, draws many top officials from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which the United States considers a terrorist organization.
A U.S. senator can buy a license for import from blacklisted countries. That’s exactly what Senator Daniel Inouye did for a Hawaiian company. A call from Inouye’s office and a donation of $2,000 to him on the same day, by a company who had never donated to him in the past, yielded a shipment of graphite electrodes from a banned Chinese corporation which provided missile technology to Pakistan and Iran. Once the “exception” was approved and Hawaii got their graphite electrodes, Inouye received another $2,000.