The Washington Times and the Associated Press report this morning that Defense Secretary Gates said yesterday that it is not too late for Iran sanctions. “If the international community will stand together and bring pressure to bear on the Iranian government, I believe there is still time for sanctions and (diplomatic) pressure to work,” he told the Italian and U.S. press following his meeting with Italian leaders. “But we must all work together,” he said. This is not the firm time in recent weeks that Obama Administration officials have made similar statements.
The Obama Administration should set the tone and work with the Congress to robustly enforce the current sanctions currently in force, as well as sign in to law a new package of sanctions aimed at the Iranian petroleum and natural gas industry. The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act in the House and the Senate-version, Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2009, are timely and ready too go. If signed into law, the measure would create a significant ban on direct imports from Iran to the US and exports from the US to Iran, exempting food and medicines, and would, among other things, strengthen export controls to make a dent on the illegal black market export of sensitive technology to Iran through other countries and impose tough new licensing requirements on those who refuse to cooperate.
Sanctions are not a panacea, a tool – but one that can have great effect if robustly enforced. Just ask officials from a U.K. company, Balli Group PLC. Last week, the U.S. government announced that the company had pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a two-count criminal information in connection with its illegal export of commercial Boeing 747 aircraft from the United States to Iran. According to a Department of Justice press release, the company will pay a $2 million criminal fine and be placed on corporate probation for five years. The $2 million fine, combined with a related $15 million civil settlement among Balli Group PLC, Balli Aviation Ltd., the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), that was also announced last week, represents one of the largest fines for an export violation in BIS history.
Also last week, a Taiwan exporter was arrested by U.S. officials on charges of exporting missile components to Iran. The criminal complaint alleges that the Taiwanese national, Kevin Chen, caused dual use goods to be exported from the U.S., including P200 Turbine Engines and spare parts, MIL-S-8516 Sealing Compound, Glass to Metal Pin Seals, and Circular Hermetic Connectors. P200 Turbine Engines are designed for use as model airplane engines but can also be used to operate unmanned aerial vehicles and military target drones. Federal agents learned of Chen’s efforts to obtain and export U.S. goods and commodities after Chen attempted to export detonators through a California company using unsatisfactory information in documents regarding Chen’s ultimate customers. The investigation revealed that Chen’s ultimate customers for the dual use exports listed in the complaint are all in Iran.
The Obama Administration has been seeking a multilateral approach to this matter. The problem is that most of our allies are heavily invested in the Iran market and have been slow to rally. If we lead, however, they will follow.