From 1986 to 1990, the U-S. Commerce Department approved over $300 million worth of sensitive American exports to Iran and Syria. Most of these were “dual-use” items, capable of making nuclear weapons or long-range missiles if diverted from their claimed civilian purposes. The record of these exports, compiled from Commerce Department data, has just become available. Three hundred seventy two exports worth over $282 million were approved to Iran, and 129 exports worth over $23 million were approved to Syria.
These approvals were made in spite of the U-S. policy against international terrorism. Iran and Syria have both been implicated in the bombing of Pan American Flight 103, which sent 270 persons to their deaths at Lockerbie, Scotland. To combat these countries’ support for such terrorist acts, Congress put Iran and Syria on a special “terrorism list” under U.S. export law. From 1986 to 1990, the U.S. Export Administration Regulations (Section 785-4) provided that an enumerated list of sensitive, high-technology items “would generally be denied” to both countries.
In spite of this denial rule, millions of dollars worth of these exports were approved. The Commerce Department records reveal why some of the approvals were made, but by no means explain them all. Some were made because of loopholes in the anti-terrorism regulations; others because of an informal practice of servicing U-S.-origin goods abroad. Still others, however, seem to have been made because the regulations were ignored.
To read the complete report, click here: Exports and Terrorism: U.S. Export Licenses to Iran and Syria: 1986-1990