Swiss energy company EGL issued a press release today announcing that it had inked a contract to buy natural gas from Iran over the next 25 years. Most of the natural gas purchased by EGL under the contract is destined to Italy via the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which EGL is building with Norway’s StatoilHydro ASA.
The United States was not amused:
Lisbeth Keefe, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Bern, said Washington had told the Swiss that “major new oil and gas deals with Iran send precisely the wrong message at a time when Iran continues to defy U.N. Security Council resolutions requiring it to suspend enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.” She said Washington was studying whether the deal actually violates the Iran Sanctions Act.
Actually it shouldn’t take much studying. Section 14(9) of the Iran Sanctions Act specifically excludes from the Act “entry into, performance, or financing of a contract to sell or purchase goods.” My guess is that Keefe knew that because she also said:
“But we believe the deal in any case violates the spirit of the sanctions,” Keefe said.
This is the first time I’ve heard anyone argue — presumably with a straight face — that the “spirit” of a U.S. law should have extraterritorial application.