European business deals with Iran are safe, says Tillerson
Last updated: October 22, 2017
The United States does not intend to disrupt European business deals with Iran, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in comments published Friday.
Tillerson, speaking one week after President Donald Trump refused to certify the Iran nuclear deal and left its fate to the US Congress, said that he would address European allies' business concerns.
"The president's been pretty clear that it's not his intent to interfere with business deals that the Europeans may have under way with Iran," Tillerson told The Wall Street Journal.
"He's said it clearly: 'That's fine. You guys do what you want to do.'"
Tillerson said that after working with the Europeans for six months, "we will start a more formalized process with them now that the policy's been adopted."
Trump has threatened a "total termination" of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran unless Congress tightens sanctions on the country and European allies address US concerns.
A week ago, he announced new sanctions on Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), describing them as "the Iranian supreme leader's corrupt personal terror force and militia."
On Thursday, two top American intelligence officials suggested that European or other companies who are seen doing business with entities tied to the Guards could themselves run into US sanctions problems.
"The (US) intelligence community struggles mightily to figure out which companies are controlled by the IRGC," CIA Director Mike Pompeo said at a forum organized by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
"It is a difficult, complex intelligence undertaking to sort out which entities are controlled by the Guards, which ones have shareholders," Pompeo said, estimating the Guards control as much as 20 percent of the Iranian economy.
"But imagine you're a European CEO, or board of directors or a lender.... Imagine that you're a businessperson deciding whether it was appropriate to take that risk or not, whether the return was there for your company. I think we can make it even more difficult."
- 'Don't do business with IRGC' -
At the same forum, White House National Security Advisor HR McMaster echoed that point, saying the United States is working hard to investigate the IRGC networks and money flows.
"The message would be: don't do business with the IRGC; don't enrich the IRGC, don't enable their murderous campaign, don't enable their threat to our friends in the region," McMaster said.
European trade with Iran has surged since the nuclear deal went into effect in January 2016.
Last year, EU trade with Iran was around $16 billion (14 billion euros), but most large European banks are reluctant to invest, fearing huge US fines or being locked out of the US market.
In the interview, Tillerson said little about the fate of lucrative Boeing contracts to sell passenger planes to Iran, or General Electric agreements to sell equipment and technologies to Iran's energy sector.