Welcome to Pick-on-the-Wall-Street-Journal Week, which we have just declared because the once-fabled publication has, for the second time in two days, had an unfortunate run-in with fact-checking and U.S. export laws. From a piece titled “Iranian Art Lovers Await Accord’s Benefits,” reporter Kelly Crow says this:
For decades following Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, U.S. collectors wishing to visit Iran needed a travel license from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which gave out a handful of licenses a year to those seeking to visit Iran and bring home “informational materials.”
Both travel to, and imports from, Iran were banned for the brief period from April 17, 1980, pursuant to Executive Order 12211, until January 23, 1981, when Executive Order 12282 revoked the travel and import bans imposed by President Carter in Executive Order 12211. Thereafter, no license has ever been required to travel to Iran.
Imports from Iran were not banned again until 1987 when President Reagan issued Executive Order 12613 in 1987. Shortly thereafter the Berman Amendment was passed in 1988 as section 2501(b) of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988. Under the Berman Amendment, “informational materials” could be imported from Iran. OFAC guidance provides that artwork classified under HTSUS 9701, 9702 and 9703 qualifies as “informational materials” eligible for importation from Iran without a license.
So, to summarize, licenses were not required “for decades” in order to travel to Iran to bring back artwork. A license to travel to Iran and to bring back artwork was required for less than one year between 1980 and 1981. Importing artwork from (but not travel to) Iran was banned thereafter only between October 29, 1987, and August 23, 1988. After that, artwork could be freely imported from Iran without license as informational materials.