Schuette urges states to impose sanctions on Iran

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 5:28pm

Though an Obama administration deal to loosen economic sanctions against Iran as part of an agreement to limit the country’s nuclear power is nearing approval from Congress, states such as Michigan could continue to obstruct U.S. trade with Iran.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, along with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, released a letter to all 50 governors, urging them to impose state-based economic sanctions against Iran.

Twenty-five states, including Michigan, currently impose their own sanctions against the country.

"In my past service as a Congressman from Michigan, I supported a strong national defensive capability and opposed relations with Iran, a country hostile to both the United States and our key strategic ally Israel,” Schuette wrote in a press release. “Now, in service as to Michigan as Attorney General, I will enforce Michigan law and opposed lifting any sanctions on Iran.”

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (DMaryland) became the 34th Democratic senator to announce support of the president’s Iran agreement Wednesday morning, which removes some economic sanctions against the country in exchange for a number of restrictions on its nuclear program.

The 34 votes mean that even if the Senate passes a resolution against the agreement, opponents won’t be able to secure the two-thirds vote necessary to override a presidential veto of the resolution, which is expected.

Michigan’s congressional delegation has been split on the deal, with many Michigan Democrats, including Rep. Debbie Dingell (DMich.) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (DMich.), voicing support, and most Michigan Republicans announcing plans to vote in opposition.

In a press release last week, Dingell said while she didn’t find every aspect of the agreement perfect, it was the best option given the situation.

“We are faced with this decision because of Iran’s defiance of the international community through the pursuit of a covert nuclear program that has left nations and people throughout the world deeply concerned about the threat this poses to world peace,” she said.

In their letter, Schuette and Pruitt state that the federal government’s choice to lift economic sanctions isn’t binding on the states, and cite issues such as religious persecution, American hostages in Iran and the security of Israel as reasons to continue sanctions .

“The States certainly have numerous moral and reputational reasons to prohibit investment of public assets into companies doing business with Iran and other countries that sponsor terrorism,” the letter reads. “Even if it is true that Iran has relinquished its ambitions for a nuclear weapon and that its deal with President Obama will prevent such an acquisition—both of which are highly questionable — Iran engages in a range of other reprehensible activities.”

As of 2012, sanctions passed by the Michigan legislature prohibit all companies with economic relationships to Iran from submitting bids for government contracts.

Impacted companies include those like Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, headquartered in Auburn Hills and employing 36,000 state residents. The company sold cars to Iran regularly until 2012, when the sanctions passed the state legislature.

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of FCA, said in July that the Iranian market could be an opportunity for “all of us” if opened, the Associated Press reported

Shawn Morgan, director of corporate communications at FCA in the United States, said Wednesday she could not comment on how state sanctions in Michigan could impact the company’s plans, as they have not yet looked at Schuette’s letter.

Several members of the Michigan legislature, including state Reps. Gretchen Driskell (DSaline), Adam Zemke (DAnn Arbor), and state Sens. Rebekah Warren (DAnn Arbor) and Dale Zorn (RIda), did not reply to requests for comment about the letter Wednesday.