Despite increased sanctions against Iran this year, US exports to the Islamic Republic have increased by about a third, bringing earnings nearly $50 million higher in the first eight months of this year than in all of 2011.
The US Census Bureau found that from January through August, exports to Iran totaled $199.5 million, an increase of about one third from last year’s $150.8 during the same period. Most of the exports came from the sale of wheat and other grains, which were valued at $89.2 million and comprised 45 percent of all US exports to Iran, Reuters reports.
Dairy products and medical equipment have also continued to enter Iran, with sales of milk products more than doubling since last year. The sale of such goods is permitted with a Treasury Department export license.
But had the US stopped exporting wheat to Iran, exports would have declined overall.
American companies have also complained that it is difficult for them to get paid for their sales, since many of Iran’s largest banks have been blacklisted by the US for involvement in terrorism or the country's nuclear program. Some Americans, especially religiously affiliated or non-profit groups, have argued that banking sanctions could prevent humanitarian trade.
“The administration’s sanctions against Iran have created a de-facto humanitarian banking blockade,” Kate Gould of the Friends Committee on National Legislation told Reuters.
But the news comes at a time when the European Union has just agreed to increase the already-tight sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, two and a half months after US President Barack Obama threatened increased action.
In August, Obama announced sanctions against foreign banks that help Iran sell its oil and petrochemical products, choking the country even more of its finances.
“If the Iranian government continues its defiance, there should be no doubt that the United States and our partners will continue to impose increasing consequences,” he said. Two and a half months later, sanctions are once again increasing. The EU on Monday decided to prohibit all transactions between European and Iranian banks, unless national authorities have approved them.
“We have always said sanctions are not an end in themselves, but are there to apply pressure on the Iranian authorities to meet their international obligations,” said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
At a time when Iran is suffering from the effects of the sanctions, Reuters calls the increase in US exports “surprising given Western efforts to isolate Iran economically.”