Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today urged that the U.S. take stronger action to pressure the Government of Tuvalu to cancel the re-flagging of Iranian oil tankers. Although Tuvalu is a small Pacific Island nation, it has re-registered half of Iran's 39-vessel tanker fleet, which now operates under the Tuvalu flag.
In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, Rep. Berman urged that actions be taken under the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act, signed into law this past week. Under the new law, sanctions are authorized against persons, worldwide, who re-register -- or "re-flag" -- Iranian oil tankers.
"The legislation makes clear the Congressional intent that sanctions are to be used to counteract Iran's shipping operations that help support its weapons program and terrorism," stated Rep. Berman in his letter to Secretaries Clinton and Geithner.
This letter is a follow up to a July 9 letter from Rep. Berman to the Tuvalu Prime Minister, urging Tuvalu to cancel reflagging of Iranian vessels. The Government of Tuvalu has since issued a public statement confirming that its ship registry agent had re-flagged tankers owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company in order to generate revenue for the government from the registration fees, yet the practice has persisted. Full text of the letter to the Tuvalu Prime Minister can be read here.
Rep. Berman in his letter today, criticized the Tuvalu Government action as "the most egregious" action by the ship registry of a foreign government, which effectively assists Iran in masking the identity of its oil tanker fleet.
The letter to Secretaries Clinton and Geithner, comes just as news reports that the Tanzanian government has announced that it will de-register the 36 reflagged vessels. In June, Rep. Berman had written Tanzanian President Kikwete calling on the government to cancel the registrations of Iranian vessels, an action the government announced it will take.
Full text of the letter to Secretaries Clinton and Geithner can be found below and here.
August 13, 2012
The Honorable Hillary Clinton The Honorable Timothy Geithner
Secretary of State Secretary of the Treasury
Department of State Department of the Treasury
Washington, D.C. 20520 Washington, D.C. 20220
Dear Secretaries Clinton and Geithner:
In light of the enactment August 10th of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act, I write to register my concern about Iran's continuing efforts to conceal the operations of its ocean-going oil tankers and cargo vessels that are operated by the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) and the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line (IRISL).
Section 202 of the new law contains a provision that calls for U.S. sanctions to be imposed on persons, worldwide, who assist Iran in concealing the identity and operations of Iranian vessels. The legislation makes clear the Congressional intent that sanctions are to be used to counteract Iran's shipping operations that generate revenues in support its weapons program and terrorism. Moreover, the President's Executive Order 13608 of May 1st authorizes the imposition of sanctions and penalties against those who assist Iran in concealing its tankers and other vessels.
Although your departments have taken steps to track, identify and designate Iranian ships that have been re-registered by other governments and to demarche those governments, the re-flagging and concealment efforts continue, allowing NITC to deliver Iranian crude oil exports and IRISL to transport cargo to and from Iran. The U.S. has had some success, most recently with the announcement by the Government of Tanzania that it is de-registering NITC vessels.
However, with other governments, the U.S. must take more robust action. One of the most egregious examples is the ship registry of the Government of Tuvalu, which has re-flagged some 22 Iranian oil tankers. In a response to my July 9th letter to the Tuvalu Prime Minister, the Government on July 17th issued a public statement acknowledging that it has re-registered NITC tankers as part of a broader effort to generate income through ship registry fees, and indicated that it intends to continue to assist Iran.
I recommend that you use the authority of both E.O. 13608 and the new law to take aggressive action to change Tuvalu's policy of abetting Iran in evading U.S. sanctions.
HOWARD L. BERMAN