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Sanctions And Iranian Shipping

The U.S. curbs Iranian shipping in hopes the country will uphold nuclear nonproliferation obligations.

Economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the United Nations, the EU, the U.S., and others are meant to increase pressure on Iran to comply with its nuclear nonproliferation obligations, to press Iran to address serious international concerns about its nuclear and missile programs, and to hold Iran accountable for its defiance of the UN Security Council for conduct related to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Significant attention has been paid to measures that focus on Iran's banking and energy sectors.

But U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey says that the latest measures also "focus on another sector that is a critical lifeline for Iran's proliferation and evasion: shipping."

In an op-ed published in the Financial Times, Under Secretary Levey warned that some of Iran's most dangerous cargo enters and exits from Iran's ports, so the international community must "redouble" its vigilance over both Iran's "domestic shipping lines and attempts to use third-country shippers and freight forwarders [third party logistic providers] for illicit cargo."

The Islamic Republic of Iran's Shipping Lines, or IRISL, is Iran's national maritime carrier, and is used by the government, said Mr. Levey, to advance its missile programs and carry other military cargo. Some of its shipments have been stopped, and were clear violations of Security Council resolutions -- including arms shipments believed to have been destined for Syria, for transfer to the Lebanese-based terrorist group Hezbollah.

The U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control first brought sanctions against IRISL in 2008. "Almost immediately," said Treasury Under Secretary Levey, "companies around the world began to shun IRISL, and the company started to use an array of deceptive practices to conceal its identity and skirt sanctions -- including falsifying shipping documents, changing names and nominal ownership of vessels and even repainting ships. It has also sought to assign vessel ownership to front companies outside Iran."

In June, the United Nations named 3 IRISL companies for sanctions, and called on countries to inspect Iranian ships, and other ships carrying cargo to or from Iran.

Mr. Levey says it is essential that companies and governments around the world be aware of their sanctions responsibilities regarding Iran's illicit activities, including its violations and deceptions regarding shipping. The overall result of these efforts, he says, is to sharpen the choice for Iran's leaders: "to choose the path offered by President [Barack] Obama and the international community, or remain on a course that leads to further isolation."