Rep. [crscore]Robert Pittenger[/crscore], along with 22 of his congressional colleagues, demand the Obama administration explain why it ceased sanctions on a Chinese telecommunications company accused of violating export bans imposed against Iran.
In a Thursday letter sent to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew and Secretary of State John Kerry, Pittenger and his colleagues allege that in 2012, Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE illegally sold communications equipment to the Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI), a state-run entity. The equipment could be utilized by the government to monitor and suppress Iranian citizens and dissident voices, according to the letter. It is believed that the Commerce Department made a deal with ZTE to cease sanctions as the government’s investigation continues.
“We are concerned that if ZTE is not ultimately punished for its reported conduct, American export control laws and international efforts to promote human rights in Iran will be weakened,” said Pittenger and his colleagues in the letter.
Pittenger explained in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation that China was part of the international sanctions regime imposed on Iran when the sale occurred, which means ZTE should not have been allowed to sell the equipment to Iran.
“Iran’s abuse of human rights is ongoing,” said Pittenger to TheDCNF, noting that the Islamic Republic has only become more aggressive since the signing of the Iran nuclear deal last July. “What changed in Iran to allow this to happen?”
As part of the provisions of the deal (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA), Iran has seen significant sanctions relief and now has access to many international markets.
“Obama has a proclivity for deferring and appeasing every [at] impasse we have with Iran,” said Pittenger. “We’ve watched this for years.”
The decision to drop sanctions against ZTE is symbolic to what Pittenger believes is an overall failure of Obama’s foreign policy.
“It drives our partners in the Gulf region nuts,” said Pittenger. “[Obama] doesn’t have a tactical plan.”
When asked what he plans to do next, Pittenger said he first wants to “see where the letter goes.” His goal is to see the administration engage in “careful oversight” and conduct a “careful and rigorous investigation” into the Commerce Department’s deal with ZTE.
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