State Dept. to list sanctionable firms

Congress more assertive on enforcement of anti-Iran legislation.

TED DEUTCH (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
WASHINGTON – The US State Department is on track to produce a list of foreign companies violating Iran-sanctions laws as soon as early August, according to a congressman involved in the issue.
The list would be the first step in imposing sanctions that until now successive administrations have declined to enforce, a sign of new willingness to take action on Iran.
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That willingness is being backed by a Congress that itself is playing a more assertive role than ever in insisting on enforcement of its legislation, including comprehensive sanctions signed into law this month.
“There has been sanctions legislation before. There have not been sanctions before,” Ted Deutch (D-Florida) told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday after appearing on a panel addressing Iran sanctions organized by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
“You’ll see over the coming days and weeks a real emphasis on ensuring that the comprehensive bill that was just passed is actually implemented, that the timelines are met, that the companies are identified, that ultimately sanctions are imposed on those companies.”
The commitment to implementation in a bid to stop Iran’s nuclear program is shared “across the political spectrum on Capitol Hill,” and that “right now the sense of urgency is great,” Deutch said.
Part of this current resolve is evident in the flurry of congressional action following up on the new legislation, a sweeping law adding to existing prohibitions on American companies conducting business in Iran to include foreign companies that invest in many facets of Iran’s energy, finance, insurance and shipping industries so they can’t access American markets, among other measures.
Deutch has co-sponsored an additional bill building on the new law to require companies to declare sanctionable investments in Iran in their reports to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
Another anticipated bill would require such disclosures on energy companies seeking drilling leases along American shores.
And to make sure that there will be enforcement of the current laws, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is holding an unusual hearing examining the implementation of Iran sanctions on Thursday.
“If you look at the oversight and government reform committee, there are very few foreign policy issues that appear on its agenda,” said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, who will testify at the hearing.
“I would say Congress is obsessed with this issue and relentless in getting their laws enforced, certainly in a way that we haven’t seen in 15 years” of legislation on the subject.
Once the State Department has compiled a list of companies not in compliance with new and existing law, a new legislative requirement sets a firm timeline for the administration to decide what action it will take. The administration can “name and shame” those companies, impose sanctions like blocking them from access to American currency and banks, or exercise a waiver in which sanctions are avoided.
“The State Department should be in a position by early August to offer an assessment,” Deutch said of the list, which he described the State Department as having been working on for several months.
The State Department did not immediately response to a request for comment.
A former Clinton administration official who was involved in earlier sanctions enforcement, however, said he expected a different approach from this administration in tackling the issue.
Stuart Eizenstat said that during the Clinton administration, in the late 1990s, the administration used its waiver provisions to forgo imposing sanctions rather than spark a trade war with European countries angry about US unilateral sanctioning of their companies.
Now, Eizenstat said, Europe has imposed sanctions similar to the US’s and shown a shared concern about Iran that should mitigate accusations of unilateral American action.
He also noted that the current legislation was tougher in mandating timelines for administration action, though he indicated that Iran’s timeline might be the most important one of all.
“The nuclear program is much further advanced,” Eizenstat stressed. “That’s an intensifying factor.”