US government has pursued far fewer violations of a long-standing arms embargo against Iran in past year compared to recent years, according to court records review and 2 senior officials.
The Jerusalem Post (Oct 5) — Addressing concerns that a landmark nuclear deal reached this year could boost Iran’s military power, the Obama administration reassured critics that it would maintain and enforce its remaining tough sanctions against the country.
Yet the US government has pursued far fewer violations of a long-standing arms embargo against Iran in the past year compared to recent years, according to a review of court records and interviews with two senior officials involved in sanctions enforcement.
The sharp fall in new prosecutions did not reflect fewer attempts by Iran to break the embargo, the officials said. Rather, uncertainty among prosecutors and agents on how the terms of the deal would affect cases made them reluctant to commit already scarce resources with the same vigor as in previous years, the officials said.
The more relaxed enforcement raises questions over how strictly the arms embargo and other remaining sanctions will be applied in future, since the nuclear deal still needs to be implemented and Iran will likely remain sensitive to a tough sanctions regime.
In the 2014-15 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, US law enforcement officials filed fresh charges just twice against those suspected of attempting to smuggle weapons and related technology from the United States to Iran, according to court records.
Eight such cases were brought in 2013-14. By comparison, around 10 to 12 such cases were brought in each of the preceding six years.
“There’s been a precipitous drop-off,” said one of the senior US officials, who declined to be identified. “The facts are the facts – there’s no other explanation.”
The official added there was already a “reticence” in some agencies and US federal prosecutors’ offices to pursue the cases because they are so tough to build and time-consuming.
“And if we’re going to normalize things with Iran soon, people are asking, ‘Is it worth it?'”
The nuclear deal, reached in July after two years of concerted negotiations, tasks Iran with dismantling much of its nuclear infrastructure in return for the removal of many of the international sanctions placed on it over the past five years.