Oct 5, 2007

Here's the Problem with Turkey's Gas Deal & US Sanctions

Turkey's gas deal with Iran presents some very uncomfortable questions for the current, and any future US administration.

The Iran-Libya Sanctions Act 0f 1996, and Bill Clinton's follow-on Executive Order 13059 (Prohibiting Certain Transactions With Respect to Iran), are very clear. It is illegal for:

"d) any transaction or dealing by a United States person, wherever located, including purchasing, selling, transporting, swapping, brokering, approving, financing, facilitating, or guaranteeing, in or related to...(i) goods or services of Iranian origin or owned or controlled by the Government of Iran."

Soooo....if Turkey ships Iranian gas to OMV's distribution network in Central-East Europe, then every US embassy and every US company, and every US citizen, "subsidiary, or successor" in any Central-East European country, will be in violation of US law for flipping on a light switch, plugging in an ipod, or heating their buildings, because this act requires that they pay their gas or electric bill. By doing so, they are "financing, facilitating...goods of Iranian origin," since Iranian gas generates the electricity they're using.

The language of current US law is so sweeping that, any US company, subsidiary, successor, or individual, anywhere in the world, could technically be forbidden from doing any business. One reading of the law could already apply to US companies like Ford, GE, and Cisco Systems, which are in Turkey, and therefore, using Turkish electricity, which is using Iranian gas.

If a US company, subsidiary, or individual, anywhere in the world, buys electricity made from Iranian gas, or even co-mingled with Iranian gas, then that person or group is effectively "financing and facilitating" Iranian gas exports. And that poor US tourist who rented a car and filled up his tank at an OMV gas station, they too are "aiding terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction" by purchasing energy which was co-mingled with energy exports from Iran. And they don't even know it.

If that same tourist did know, then it would make for one wild time at US customs on the return home.
--"What was the purpose of your trip?"
--"Oh, we took a leisure drive through Southeast Europe to aid terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

Now, none of this can possibly be enforced. And that presents all sorts of problems for any current or future US administration that pretends to be "tough on Iran" but then lets everyone openly violate the sanctions regime.

If we really meant what we said about Iran, we'd enforce our laws to the letter, and do more to destroy the global economy than any Iranian nuke ever could.

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