Despite the nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran, the U.S. trade embargo with Iran will not be among the sanctions to be lifted.  This means that Iranian Americans will continue to be prohibited from engaging in most trade-related transactions with Iran or Iranian parties. 

On April 14, 2015, the United States agreed to and endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”), which limits and rolls-back Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for comprehensive relief from all nuclear-related sanctions.  Sanctions relief, which will be delayed until the IAEA verifies that Iran has met its key nuclear-related commitments under the deal, includes those sanctions targeting Iran’s energy, financial, and trade-related sectors.

As an organization that has long viewed sanctions as counterproductive to the objectives of diplomacy and unduly harmful towards the Iranian people, we at NIAC are encouraged by these developments.  However, we must offer an important cautionary note: Contrary to popular belief and barring certain limited exceptions, the nuclear deal with Iran leaves in place most of the current restrictions on the activities of U.S. persons, including Iranian Americans, vis-à-vis Iran. Iranian Americans will still not be allowed to trade with Iran or Iranian parties, invest in Iran, or facilitate the activities of non-U.S. persons entering Iran.  Sanctions on each of these activities (and more) remain in place.

However, certain limited parts of the U.S. trade embargo will be relieved under the nuclear deal.  These include:

  • Imports of Iranian-origin carpets and foods into the U.S.
  • Transactions related to the sale or transfer of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran

It’s important to remember that the U.S. will not implement sanctions relief until Iran has taken key nuclear-related steps to constrain its nuclear program.  That may not take place until Spring 2016.  Therefore, the current restrictions remain in place until that time.

Moreover, because of the lifting of restrictions on banking transfers between Iran and Europe, U.S. persons may find it easier to transfer funds between the U.S. and Iran, as intermediary (third-country) banks become more widely available.

Nonetheless, it is important to reiterate that – outside of the two changes listed above and the possible relaxation of certain banking restrictions – the U.S. trade embargo with Iran will remain firmly in place under a nuclear deal.  U.S. persons cannot trade with, invest in, or facilitate trade with Iran.  Any violations of these sanctions prohibitions could lead to civil and criminal penalties. 

We will continue to press on this issue.  We believe that ending the trade embargo with Iran will enable Iranian Americans to bridge the divide between their two countries.  At a time in which foreign parties are being permitted to enter Iran, we fail to see the sense of maintaining trade restrictions on U.S. persons with Iran.  However, until the trade embargo is lifted, we believe it necessary to inform the Iranian-American community as to restrictions that will remain to temper expectations and ensure full compliance with U.S. sanctions laws.       

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