Iranian women 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Caren Firouz)
WASHINGTON - The United States was set to relax sanctions on
Iran on Thursday to allow American companies to sell mobile phones, software and
other technology used for personal communications to Iranians, two US
The move, expected later on Thursday, will allow Iranians
to get access to the latest Apple phones and newest software that have only been
available on Tehran's black market since sanctions were first imposed in
The US has ramped up tough measures against Iran in recent years
to slow development of the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear program,
blacklisting a wide range of Iranian companies and government
The United States believes Iran is enriching uranium to levels
that could be used in nuclear weapons, but Tehran says its program is for
The easing of sanctions on technology may be an
attempt by the U.S. government to develop goodwill with Iranian citizens before
the Iranian national elections next month.
Social media played a big role
in the wake of Iran's disputed 2009 presidential elections, used by the
opposition "Green Movement" to marshal global attention to their cause, and
later inspiring protesters in the Arab Spring revolts of 2011.
government first eased some technology restrictions after the election in 2010,
allowing US companies to export to Iran some basic software and free Internet
services such as chat and email.
But the move on Thursday goes further,
allowing companies to sell software and hardware to Iranian citizens, Wendy
Sherman, undersecretary for political affairs at the US State Department, said
in an interview on the BBC Persian service late on Wednesday.
"We have no
desire to cut off communications," she said in the interview, which first
announced the looser rules. "We in fact want to encourage communications in
every way we can." The English transcript from Sherman's interview was provided
by the National Iranian American Council, a non-profit group that has long urged
the US government to ease restrictions on Iran that hurt ordinary citizens but
do little to hinder the government's actions.