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U.S. Congressmen warn Shell it could be banned from U.S.

Zambia News.Net
Saturday 3rd October, 2009

An intimidating, threatening letter was sent by Congressmen Brad Sherman and Dan Burton to Royal Dutch Shell CFO Simon Henry.

The U.S. Congress has spent recent weeks in intensifying a push for sanctions against Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

The efforts culminated in a joint announcement by American President Barack Obama, British leader Gordon Brown, and French Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy last week which insisted Iran come clean on its nuclear program, or face sanctions.

Behind the scenes Israeli lobby groups, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other government officials joined the U.S. Congress in pressing the State Department, and member states of the United Nations, to impose sanctions against Iran.

Their efforts were largely defused on Thursday this week when Iran agreed to open a second reactor it is building to IAEA inspections.

During the process however members of Congress in an extraordinary development made threats to at least one international corporation, global oil giant Shell, warning that its business interests in Iran could lead to it being barred from doing business in the United States.

An intimidating, threatening letter was sent by Congressmen Brad Sherman and Dan Burton to Royal Dutch Shell CFO Simon Henry, on a Congress of the United States letterhead, which slammed the Anglo-Dutch company for not opening up about its interests in Iran. The congressmen sent a copy of the letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, as well as to ambassadors for the UK and the Netherlands.

“As you may know, a large bi-partisan group of U.S. legislators recently introduced a bill that would authorize the President of the United States to impose sanctions on any company providing Iran with refined petroleum resources,” Sherman and Burton said in their letter to the Shell CFO.

“We have been told that Royal Dutch Shell, through its subsidiary, Shell International Trading Middle East, provides gasoline to Iran.”

“This activity,” said the congressmen, “places all of Royal Dutch Shell at risk of sanctions. These sanctions could include a complete freeze on company assets in the United States, the loss of access to U.S. capital markets, a prohibition on carrying out transactions in U.S. dollars, and a ban on receiving government contracts, including oil and gas leases.”

“In general, Royal Dutch Shell could potentially be barred from carrying out any activity in the United States,” said Sherman and Burton.

“Under the worst case scenario, we think you would agree, the potential losses to Royal Dutch Shell could be staggering,” the congressmen warned the Anglo-Dutch oil company.

The letter written in May this year is a series of measures by the U.S. Congress to advance the case for sanctions against Iran. One of the main aims, as the letter to Shell highlights, is to disrupt gasoline supplies to Iran, which imports 40% of its needs.

The Senate and the House of Representatives have since introduced legislation to extend the president’s authority to impose sanctions on companies providing gasoline to Iran.

On Thursday night the House of Representatives voted 308 to 114, to pass a 2010 energy spending bill that includes a provision that would bar companies which sell gasoline to Iran from receiving contracts to supply oil to the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

The sanctions were part of a provision sponsored by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). They are expected to pass the US Senate and then be signed into law by Obama.

“It is fitting that today, as the president begins his strategy of engagement with the Iranians, legislation is on its way to his desk containing a provision we authored that prohibits the US government from buying oil from companies that sell or ship gasoline to Iran,” the two senators said in a statement. “Time is running out for Iran to give up its illegal nuclear weapons program,” they added.

Additionally, the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (H.R. 2194 in the House and S. 908 in the Senate) has been sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) and Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and in the Senate by a group of 27 senators, led by Democrat Sen. Evan Bayh (IN), and Republican Sen. Jon Kyl (AZ).

Introduced earlier this year was the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2009 (H.R. 1327 in the House and S. 1065 in the Senate), which authorizes state and local governments to divest from companies investing in Iran’s petroleum and natural gas sector and protects fund managers who divest from such companies from potential lawsuits. The lead cosponsors of the House bill are Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL). The Senate bill was introduced by Sens. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Robert Casey (D-PA). The House Financial Services Committee passed the bill by voice vote on April 28.

Reps. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Brad Sherman (D-CA) also introduced legislation to back American efforts to engage with Iran by expanding the threat of economic sanctions to limit Iran’s ability to import and produce refined petroleum. The Iran Diplomatic Enhancement Act (H.R. 1985) would require the president to impose two or more sanctions from a menu of penalties to any person or entity “engaged in an activity, including production, brokerage, insurance, and tanker delivery services, that could contribute to Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum resources.”

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