Congressman Howard L. Berman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today called on the Tanzanian President to cancel the reflagging of Iranian vessels following reports that the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) vessels are being reflagged under his nation's flag.
Berman added that US assistance to Tanzania would be in jeopardy if these actions persisted.
In the letter, Rep. Berman writes, "It is profoundly disappointing to me to learn that your government has acted in contravention of the broad international coalition that is working together to use peaceful means, including economic sanctions, to change the threatening behavior of the Iranian regime. The decision to accept the re-flagging of NITC vessels casts a shadow over Tanzania's international reputation."
Rep. Berman has been a champion of Iran sanctions in Congress, building broad coalitions in support of ending Iran's nuclear weapons program. In January, Rep. Berman, joined by Senator Menendez (D-New Jersey) introduced stiffer sanctions aimed at the NITC and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) if they are determined to be affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The sanctions would penalize foreign financial institutions that facilitate financial transactions involving NITC or NIOC.
The letter to President Kikwete follows:
Dear President Kikwete,
I am writing to express my deep dismay that Tanzania has permitted the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), to reflag at least 6 and as many as 10 of its vessels under the Tanzanian ship registry, allowing them to remain under NITC ownership and continuing to transport Iran's crude oil exports. This action by your government has the effect of assisting the Iranian regime in evading U.S. and EU sanctions and generating additional revenues for its nuclear enrichment and weapons research programs and its support for international terrorism.
It is profoundly disappointing to me to learn that your government has acted in contravention of the broad international coalition that is working together to use peaceful means, including economic sanctions, to change the threatening behavior of the Iranian regime. The decision to accept the re-flagging of NITC vessels casts a shadow over Tanzania's international reputation.
I respectfully request that Tanzania cancel the re-flagging of the NITC vessels. Given the close and cooperative relationship that our two governments now enjoy, it would be unfortunate if this action were permitted to stand.
It would be preferable that Tanzania take this action of its own accord. However, your government should take note of President Obama's Executive Order 13608, signed May 1, 2012, which provides for the imposition of sanctions on any entity worldwide, including foreign governments, that assists Iran in evading U.S. sanctions. In my view, reflagging Iranian oil tankers falls within the scope of sanctionable activity under that Executive Order. In addition, if Tanzania were to allow Iranian vessels to remain under Tanzanian registry, we in the Congress would have no choice but to consider whether to continue the range of bi-lateral U.S. programs with Tanzania.
Ranking Democrat, House Foreign Affairs Committee