US Lets Companies Deal With Nations on Terror List

Iran, others, get flow of American goods ... like gum and workout equipment
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 24, 2010 7:20 AM CST
Updated Dec 24, 2010 7:54 AM CST
An Iranian shopper examines what appear to be American-brand refrigerators at a store in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, July 1, 2008.   (AP photo/Hasan Sarbakhshian)

(Newser) – The US has given thousands of corporations the go-ahead to do business with Iran and other nations supposedly blacklisted as “state sponsors of terrorism.” A little-known Treasure office has been issuing licenses—nearly 10,000 to date—under a 2000 law requiring that agricultural and medical humanitarian aid be exempted from sanctions, the New York Times reports. But the law was written so broadly that “humanitarian aid” has been interpreted to mean everything from cigarettes to Wrigley’s gum to exercise machines.

Even before the law passed, lobbyists were banging on the Treasury’s door to argue their products qualified. Take the chewing gum: “We debated that one for a month. Did it have nutritional value? We concluded it did,” said one former sanctions adviser, before admitting, “We were probably rolled on that issue by outside forces.” Other deals were allowed on the grounds that they forwarded US foreign policy goals—even though in some cases, like a company that got the OK to bid on work related to a natural gas pipeline from Iran to Europe, the US officially opposed the project.

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