US firms earn billions selling goods to blacklisted nations

Dec 24, 2010 12:00 AM

If sanctions against Iran include embargoes of imported goods, how are they getting American products to sell at the retail level?
Through a little known loophole and as a result, a NY Times investigation reveals that American firms are earning billions from the sale of such goods to Iran and other nations blacklisted as state sponsors of terrorism. It's happening under a decade-old law that exempts agricultural products and medical humanitarian equipment from trade embargoes. Under that law, an obscure office in the Treasury Department has given nearly 10,000 licenses to American companies and corporations, allowing those firms to circumvent sanctions, leading to billions of dollars in business.

Under the law,
items like cigarettes, chewing gum, Louisiana hot sauce and body-building equipment have been sold to countries like Iran simply by declaring it humanitarian aid. While some exceptions support American foreign-policy objectives, others directly undermine them, like the permission granted to an American company to build a pipeline that would help Iran sell natural gas to Europe, something the US officially opposes, but which is raking in millions now and perhaps billions later for firms in the US.
Not surprisingly, the law is heavily supported by the agriculture lobby and industry groups.

Yes, because they're such patriots. And we wonder why the sanctions don't work? And we wonder why these countries don't take us seriously?
Right now, I'm picturing Osama bin Laden sitting in his cave, drinking a Pepsi and sprinkling Louisiana Hot Sauce on his curried goat while laughing a hearty "Ho, Ho, Ho."
For decades, our foreign policy has been and continues to be not to protect American interests, but American business interests while political leaders put on this act of hiding behind the flag waving and the threat du jour as a smoke screen. The babble about domino theories and the Axis of Evil and sell that to the American public while using blood of the soldiers as the primary currency keeping this farce in place. Imperialism squared US-style, plain and simple.

I guess billions of dollars and profits for business trump national security and country first. Shameful, pathetic and timid
behaviour. And it shows what a paper tiger the US has become. Why not just finance terrorism directly instead of conduct this kind of farce.
When this sort of thing occurs in another country, we call it corruption. When it happens here, we call it an oversight, an exception or a mistake. The rest of the world sees it clearly for what it is: Hypocrisy and lies and often a crime. So why don't we collectively see it that clearly? Are we really so blind to our own
behaviour?
Honestly, the
rigour of our moral standards just leaves one breathless. And they have the nerve to complain about WikiLeaks?
What a sad story to learn on the eve of the Christmas holiday.

As a sidebar
, and if there's any comfort at all in a story like this, thank goodness for newspapers because this simply isn't the kind of story that cable news bothers to do, despite have far greater financial horsepower to devote to such investigations. No one does this kind of shoe-leather journalism better than newspapers.

The Times has a list of all 300 licensees. Here are the top 10 (with total number of licenses):
Bank of America, 217
General Electric, 213
Citigroup Inc, 185
Coico Medical LLC, 129 (all to Iran)
American Pulp & Paper Corporation, 128 (all to Iran)
ABS Global Inc, 99 (all to Iran)
Bank of New York, 95 (all to Cuba)
Hercules USA Inc, 92 (all to Iran)
Siemens, 89
Boston Scientific Corporation, 76 (all but one to Iran)

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