Joel Mowbray

The other key bill aiming to apply pressure on the Iranian mullahs would force oil companies seeking drilling permits in U.S. federal waters to certify that they are not investing inside Iran and disclose any joint ventures they have with Iranian-controlled businesses.

Joint ventures, whether in Europe or Asia or elsewhere, have been central to the Iranian mullahs’ efforts to blunt the impact of sanctions they’ve known for some time would eventually be enacted. Among the leading sources of outside revenues for Iran’s oppressive regime are joint ventures its firms have with BP, including a massive natural gas project in Britain’s North Sea.

The recently passed Iran sanctions legislation didn’t fully deal with joint ventures (beyond banning the transfer of technology and expertise and requiring reports which be used to “name and shame”) in large part because not enough is known about the scope and extent of the various projects already in place.

Mark Dubowitz, executive director of Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (where this journalist is an adjunct fellow), has identified joint ventures and other partnerships Iranian government-controlled entities have with foreign companies in energy projects off the coast of Scotland, in Croatia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and India.

Even that, he notes, “probably barely scratches the surface of Iran’s foreign partnerships and investments.”

Rep. Ron Klein (D-FL), who plans to introduce the joint venture legislation this week, believes his bill will help steer companies through a simple cost-benefit analysis. “Our provision says that companies must make a choice,” explains Klein, “either do business with the U.S. government or do business with Iran, not both.”

With the momentum building against Iran, companies truly might be having to make that choice sooner rather than later.

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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