Profit Over Policy?: US Govt Let Companies Do Business With Blacklisted Countries

Over the past decade, the United State government has allowed American companies to do business—billions of dollars of business—with countries blacklisted as state sponsors of terrorism.

An investigation by the New York Times has discovered that a little known office of the US Treasury Department, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, has approved over 10,000 licenses for business deals with countries including Iran that have been ‘cast into economic purgatory, beyond the reach of American business.’  Companies that have benefited include Kraft Foods and Pepsi, not to mention some very large banks.

A law makes it possible for such licenses to be approved despite the sanctions on the basis of agricultural and medical humanitarian aid. But the law is written so broad that under the category of ‘humanitarian aid’ are: cigarettesWrigley’s gum, Jolly Time popcorn, Louisiana hot sauceweight-loss remediesbody-building supplements and sports rehabilitation equipment which were sold to the institute that trains Iran’s Olympic athletes.

The law was passed in 2000 under heavy economic and political pressure, at a time when American farmers, ‘facing sharp declines in commodity prices and exports, hoped to offset their losses with sales to blacklisted countries.’ Other abuses of the law include:

  • an American company being allowed to bid on a pipeline job that would have helped Iran sell natural gas to Europe—though the United States opposes such projects.
  • McCormick & Co applying to sell salt substitutes, marinades, food colorings and cake sprinkles to a number of chain stores in Iran—but it turns out that the stores all have direct connections with banks on an American blacklist and terrorist organizations. One store is owned by the government of Tehran.

And since when does food coloring count as ‘medical humanitarian aid’?

In other cases, licensing has not kept pace with changes in US foreign policy and diplomacy.  American companies have imported cheap blouses and raw material for steel from North Korea after restrictions were loosened when that government promised it would renounce its nuclear weapons program. That agreement has fallen apart, but the license remains.

To gain access to the information, the New York Times filed a federal Freedom of Information lawsuit.  The government agreed to provide a list of ‘companies granted exceptions and, in a little more than 100 cases, underlying files explaining the nature and details of the deals.’ Obtaining all of this took three years, and ‘the government heavily redacted many documents, saying they contained trade secrets and personal information.’

It seems that the US government is letting commerce and business undercut, if not underwrite, what are supposed to be our stated foreign policy goals.

Photo by onecle.


Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle7 years ago

GREED. Corporations over people, seems to be the norm.

Julie van Niekerk

I agree Mary. Greed has surpassed humanity!

Past Member 7 years ago

several problems with this mess...first..of course it's about money...everyone wants everything fixed...but no one wants to pick up the we complain...i'd suggest you check your portfolios first...just to make sure you have divested yourself of these companies and any others that abuse the environment...these companies cannot continue without stockholders buying's a fact of economics...
next...we keep doing this to ourselves...we elect lawyers....take a poll and find out how many of our politicians are lawyers...and then start asking how many of the office staff and support staff are hire/elect attorneys to write/create laws and then also have these same attorneys crafting the legislation that determines how laws will be applied...and if there is a disagreement...where would it the courts...more lawyers...yep just what we need in this country more lawyers to come up with more ways to cheat the public, to steal from them...who do you think came up with the language that allows insurance companies to deny claims? or for companies to steal from the employees retirement fund?? it was attorneys...hello???? i actually think that i agree with shakespeare....because if the laws cannot be simple and understandable, then maybe it's the wrong law....and wrong lawyers...they gave us the irs code...thank you so much....really appreciate this we're worried about the huge loopholes in these's about profits...

leanne mcivor
leanne Torio7 years ago

Republicans are not to be trusted!

jane richmond
jane richmond7 years ago

Is all about Money!

Paul B.
7 years ago

Politics has simply become the tool of the global economy. We have known for a long time that money rules, even beyond the scope of political ideology. Look at the "rulers" we have established in Congress even here in the US. Corrupt, greedy, self-centered career politicians are the worst thing we could have ever allowed to happen in this country. We let our guard down and this is what we have gotten. Time for a change... a return to a time when we could trust those elected representatives to do what we want them to do, instead of what works best for THEM.

Norm C.
Norm C7 years ago

You can always count on the High and Mighty to buy their way around laws that would reduce their haul.

Sherry D.
Sherry D7 years ago

Greed has brought this country to it's lowest. How disgusting.

Ray M.
Ray M7 years ago

No surprises here. Profit (greed) is KING, always has been, always will be.

Albert C.
Albert R. C7 years ago

To gain access to the information, the New York Times filed a federal Freedom of Information lawsuit. The government agreed to provide a list of 'companies granted exceptions and, in a little more than 100 cases, underlying files explaining the nature and details of the deals.' Obtaining all of this took three years, and 'the government heavily redacted many documents, saying they contained trade secrets and personal information.'

Once again it looks like we need Wikileaks to let us know what is going on.