Iran may be part of the “axis of evil,” but it is good enough to be able to buy increasing amounts of American products — including bull semen, brassieres and possibly even weapons — despite U.S. sanctions that have been in place for decades.
An analysis of seven years of U.S. trade statistics done by the Associated Press shows that exports from the United States to Iran grew more than tenfold during President George W. Bush’s years in office, even as he accused the Mideast country of having nuclear ambitions and helping terrorists.
Cigarettes were Iran’s favorite U.S. import, the statistics said, with the Islamic republic’s smokers going through more than $169 million worth of popular U.S. brands since 2001.
Other surprising shipments to Iran during the Bush administration have included fur coats, sculptures, perfume and musical instruments.
Despite increasingly tough rhetoric toward Iran, and reports of U.S. or Israeli plans for a military strike, trade in a range of goods has survived on-again, off-again sanctions originally imposed nearly three decades ago.
Sanctions target ‘regime, not people’
Theoretically, the U.S. government-imposed rules allow only sales of agricultural commodities, medicine and a few other types of goods. What exemptions exist are aimed at helping Iranian families, officials said.
“Our sanctions are targeted against the regime, not the people,” said Adam Szubin, director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces the country’s sanctions against foreign nations, including Cuba.
The U.S. and Europe recently agreed on a new round of financial sanctions against one of Iran’s leading banks, as part of international efforts to discourage Tehran from enriching uranium.
Washington also moved Tuesday to impose targeted sanctions on certain Iranian companies and individuals suspected of funding Islamic militant groups and nuclear weapons development.
Economic embargoes and sanctions are intended in part to frustrate Iran’s efforts to build its military, but the U.S. government’s own figures show that hundreds of thousands of dollars in unspecified weapons, rifle parts and other military gear were exported from the U.S. to Iran during Bush’s time in office.
Szubin said it was unlikely that exports of military gear occurred, but he added that the government was looking into the matter.
The United States sent Iran about $546 million in goods from 2001 through last year, government figures show. It exported roughly $146 million last year, compared with just under $9 million in 2001, Bush’s first year in office. Even adjusted for inflation, that is more than a tenfold increase.
Snowmobiles, golf carts on list
Top U.S. exports to Iran over Bush’s years in office include agricultural products such as corn and soybeans, vaccines, blood products, chemicals, wood pulp, medical equipment, vitamins, bull semen and vegetable seeds, according to the AP’s analysis of government trade data compiled by the World Institute for Strategic Economic Research in Holyoke, Mass.
Iran is listed as a top customer of Alta Genetics Inc., a Canadian company with an office in Watertown, Wis., that sells bull semen, used to produce healthier, more profitable cattle.
“The animals we’re working with are genetically superior to those in many parts of the world,” said Kevin Muxlow, Alta’s global marketing manager.
The trade statistics also show that Iran has purchased several thousand dollars’ worth of snowmobiles and golf carts from U.S. suppliers.
McCain jokes about killing Iranians with cigarettes – Reuters PITTSBURGH (Reuters) – U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who once sang in jest about bombing Iran, on Tuesday reacted to a report of rising U.S. cigarette exports to the country by saying it may be “a way of killing ‘em.”
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