One of the pillars of the Olympics is that sports can help bring nations together. Now, the U.S. Treasury is counting on sports to cool the relationship between the United States and Iran.
On Sept. 10, the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control issued a general license that will allow imports and exports of services related to both professional and amateur sports between the two nations. The license covers sports, games, officials, coaching and training.
In August, an Iranian official was barred from taking part in the U.S. Open, but after lawyers from the U.S. Tennis Association appealed to the OFAC, the official was allowed to participate.
The license, which was approved in a scant three weeks, covers any number of sports, reflecting the ongoing – though tentative – bond between the two nations, which differ on many political and ideological issues. But both countries have been working to bring wrestling back to the Olympics so, at least between the lines of athletic arenas, the two enemies have common ground.
In addition to explicit sports-related exchanges, the license also allows for non-governmental agencies to transfer funds in humanitarian efforts, including health services, orphanages, donations of food and medicine and humanitarian aid in the event of a natural disaster.
In 2007, Congress increased the authority of the OFAC in order to regulate potential violations of U.S. economic sanctions. Companies that engage in international business run the risk of engaging with nations, businesses or individuals that are sanctioned. While companies should be wise to self-audit these types of transactions, the license with Iran demonstrates that the OFAC is willing and able to consider exceptions to sanctions when appropriate.