October 15, 2012 - 10:37 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - U.S. exports to Iran rose by nearly a third this year, chiefly because of grain sales, according to U.S. data released last week, despite the tightening of U.S. financial sanctions, Reuters reported.
The jump to $199.5 million in the first eight months of 2012 from $150.8 million a year earlier, according to Census Bureau data, is surprising given Western efforts to isolate Iran economically because of its suspected pursuit of nuclear arms.
The increase masks a drop in the export of some humanitarian goods such as medicines, a decline U.S. exporters blame largely on the difficulty of getting paid by Iranian importers because of new U.S. financial sanctions.
But it also shows that goods such as milk products and medical equipment - whose sale to Iran is allowed with a Treasury Department export license - continue to flow despite the sanctions and the payments difficulties.
The figures come as European Union governments plan to ratchet up sanctions pressure against Iran over its nuclear program on Monday, Oct 15, approving new measures against Tehran's banking sector, industry and shipping.
The new sanctions mark one of the toughest pushes against Iran by Europe to date, and come amid mounting concerns over the Islamic Republic's military intentions and the failure of diplomacy to solve the atom stand-off this year.
The largest category of US exports to Iran through August, 2012 was $89.2 million in sales of wheat and other grains. During the same 2011 period, the United States exported no wheat or such grains to Iran, though it sold $21 million of maize.
Medicinal and pharmaceutical products, including those sold in bulk and those for animals, fell to $14.9 million from $26.7 million. Pulp and waste paper, a category that includes the raw material for diapers, sank to $17.4 million from $40.9 million.
However, exports rose in several other categories. Sales of milk products including cream, butter and other fats and oils derived from dairy more than doubled to $20.3 million from $7.8 million.
Medical, dental, surgical and other "electro-diagnostic apparatus" rose to $8 million from $4.7 million.
Although Iran can still import such goods, U.S. companies have complained for months that it is harder and harder to get paid because Iran's big banks have been blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury for alleged support for terrorism or involvement in the its alleged weapons of mass destruction programs.
A Western diplomat said U.S. policy is to target the Iranian government rather than the people with sanctions, though he acknowledged that it is getting harder to make this case as the sanctions grow tighter.