Wednesday, July 09, 2008

White House's hostile rhetoric fails to stem flow of exports to regime under sanctions

Ewen MacAskill, US exports to Iran have risen dramatically during George Bush's years in office in spite of his tough rhetoric against Tehran and the imposition of fresh economic sanctions.
Analysis of US government trade figures published yesterday by Associated Press revealed a near tenfold increase in US sales to Iran over the past seven years. Goods included cigarettes, aircraft spare parts, bras, musical instruments, films, sculpture, fur, golf carts and snowmobiles.
Although the sums involved are small, the disclosure is a political embarrassment for the US, coming at a time when it has been putting pressure on European governments, banks and companies to cut ties with Tehran. ...
AP found data suggesting military equipment had been exported, even though there are sanctions to prevent this. The Treasury is still investigating but [US treasury spokesman John] Rankin said initial findings indicated there had been no such sales and described the data as a "clerical error". ...
One of the Bush's administration's main instruments for putting pressure on Iran has been sanctions. Yesterday the White House announced fresh financial sanctions against Iranian officials and companies allegedly involved in its nuclear programme. But Tehran is awash with US goods mainly imported indirectly, usually through the United Arab Emirates.
Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian specialist at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: "You can get everything from an iPod to a Chevrolet in Tehran. I think this is a good thing. The more the Iranian population is exposed to American culture, which includes American products, the better for Iranian progress."
... US export records show $148,000 worth of weapons and other military gear were exported, including $106,635 in rifles and $8,760 in rifle parts and accessories shipped in 2004. At least $13,000 in equipment needed to launch jets from aircraft carriers were also exported. The treasury suggested yesterday the data had been reported incorrectly by officials.
Rankin denied there was a contradiction between the rise in US exports and calls on Europe to cease trading with Iran. He said European companies were involved with finance but US exports involved food and medicine. He said: "Food and medicine are not tools we are going to use to put pressure on the regime."
LSB: “…in spite of his tough rhetoric…” – how many times have we heard that about this President? All bark, no bite – and here’s to hoping there is no bite anytime soon. Sanctions only hurt the population – both Iranian consumers and the U.S. manufacturers – not the Iranian regime. Sending our bras, films and golf carts to a young population would be a lot more destabilizing to the current regime than sanctions. Exporting aircraft small parts, presumably for domestic aircraft and with strict controls, should be controlled, an certainly exporting military parts – if this is not a “clerical error” – is counter-intuitive to our national interests. But honestly, who would have a problem with sending musical instruments, sculptures, snowmobiles or home consumer items to Iran? This helps U.S. manufacturers and workers, it doesn’t undermine our national security, and exposing the Iranian population to American culture and goods can only be beneficial in the long run.

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