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  June 15th, 2016 | Written by

Treasury Attempts Clarity on State of Iran Sanctions

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  • Restrictions on exporting to Iran have been part of sanctions programs unrelated to Iran nuclear issue.
  • The result of the easing of some Iran sanctions give rise to some tricky situations.
  • U.S. companies can maintain an office in Iran but still can't export there.

Despite the easing of sanctions against Iran, following the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran nuclear deal, “U.S. persons continue to be broadly prohibited from engaging in or facilitating transactions or dealings with Iran or its government.”

So notes a document recently released by the United States Department of the Treasury that attempts to shed light on the current state of sanctions against Iran.

The reason for this general prohibition, despite the lifting of some sanctions pursuant to JCPOA, is that

restrictions on the exportation or re-exportation of goods and services to Iran have been in place for decades as part of a range of U.S. sanctions programs targeted at Iran which have nothing to do with the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

The result of the easing of some sanctions while the bulk of them remain the same can give rise to some tricky situations and these are addressed in the new Treasury document. For example, what if U.S. citizens sit on the board or serve as c-level executives at a non-U.S. entity? Can that non-U.S. company deal with Iranian citizens, not on the list of sanctioned individuals.

The answer is “yes, but.” While the company can engage in transactions the U.S. executives and board members may not. They must, essentially, recuse themselves from dealing in these matters.

“U.S. persons must be walled off or ‘ring-fenced’ from Iran-related business,” the document explains. In establishing policies on how to accomplish this walling off the U.S. persons from the institution’s Iran-related business, companies “should consider instituting a blanket recusal policy (as opposed to case-by-case abstentions…) for U.S. person directors, senior managers, and other employees with respect to Iran-related matters.”

Other questions may arise under General License H, the document issued by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), pertaining to the lifting of some sanctions against Iran pursuant to JCPOA.

For example, does General License H authorize a U.S. person to establish a physical presence inside Iran?

The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is yes. But there’s a catch. “U.S.-owned or -controlled foreign entities…continue to be prohibited from the exportation, re-exportation, sale, or supply, directly or indirectly, from the United States of any goods, technology, or services if the items are destined for Iran or the Government of Iran at the time they leave the United States,” says the Treasury document.

So, despite the ability to maintain an office in Iran, for example, exporting to Iran is still a no-no. The resumption of trade between the two countries will have to await some further lifting of sanctions.