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August 19, 2009 

Cracking Down on Iran's Illicit Trade

Michael Jacobson, a senior fellow in the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, today published a policy paper entitled "Cracking Down on Iran's Illicit Trade."

The policy paper recommends that "strengthening the export control regime to prevent Iran from easily circumventing U.S. and international sanctions should be a key part" of the Obama Administration's recently announced review of the U.S. export control system.

Among other things, Jacobson describes the increased U.S. enforcement of export control violations involving Iran and discusses ways in which these efforts have fallen short. For example, he notes that while the "main challenge for U.S. export control efforts is on the international front, problems closer to home exist as well:

  • Despite the presence of a national export control coordinator, no agency is officially in charge of U.S. government export control efforts, with responsibility spread between State, Justice, Treasury, Commerce, and DHS;

  • The main statute governing this issue -- the Export Administration Act (EAA) -- has expired, forcing the United States to temporarily operate under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which does not allow for the full set of tools that the EAA provided;

  • Sentences in export control cases are often light, in part because judges do not always view them as serious national security issues. Adding to this prevalent perception is the fact that export control offenses are not in Title 18 of the U.S. Code, where the vast majority of crimes are found."
The policy paper concludes by noting that "success in the arena depends on better understanding how Iran is procuring illegal goods -- with its various front companies and agents around the world -- and mobilizing other countries to move forward on this front."




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