In a recent DoJ press release correcting a previous press release that incorrectly stated that the DoJ had indicted someone on export charges that they hadn’t actually indicted him on (oops!), the DoJ took the opportunity to try to explain the scope of the U.S. sanctions on Iran. Unfortunately the DoJ got it wrong. Of course, when an exporter makes a mistake about the scope of the Iran sanctions, it’s a big deal; but when the DoJ makes a mistake, oh well, we all make mistakes.

At issue are charges against Pennsylvania-based Hetran, Inc. which allegedly shipped a horizontal lathe to Iran via a company in Dubai. This gives the DoJ the opportunity to say this:

American companies are forbidden to ship dual use items – such as the peeler – to Iran without first obtaining a license from the U.S. Department of Commerce

Oh dear, where to start with this? Really, it’s just wrong in so many ways. Let’s start with section 746.7 of the Export Administration Regulations which sets forth the controls by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security on exports to Iran. That would have been a good place for the DoJ to start as well before attempting to explain U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Subsection (e) says this

No person may export or reexport any item that is subject to the EAR if such transaction is prohibited by the Iranian Transactions Regulations (31 CFR part 560) and not authorized by OFAC.

Subsection (a) says this:

[I]f OFAC authorizes an export or reexport, such authorization is considered authorization for purposes of the EAR as well.

So, where does that leave us?

Error 1: Licenses aren’t just required for exporting dual use items to Iran. OFAC rules forbid all exports to Iran except for certain limited items such as food, medicine, medical devices, informational products and personal telecommunications devices. Plenty of things that aren’t dual use (i.e. listed on the Commerce Control List) require licenses.

Error 2: the requirement for exports to Iran is a license from OFAC, not from BIS. A license from BIS is required only if no license from OFAC has been obtained and the matter is “not subject to OFAC regulatory authority.”  EAR 746.7(a)(2).

Here’s an idea: maybe people in the DoJ should be required to attend BIS’s annual Update Conference before they are allowed to say things about export law.