White House

Obama Warns Companies Eyeing Iran Business

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama speaks during a joint news conference with French President Francois Hollande in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Feb. 11, 2014. Susan Walsh—AP

'We will come down on them like a ton of bricks'

President Barack Obama issued a stern warning Tuesday to companies eyeing business opportunities in Iran not to move too fast, one week after a French trade delegation visited the country to scout prospect in a post-sanctions era.

The United States and its allies have begun rolling back some sanctions as part of an interim agreement that halted Iranian nuclear enrichment, but the Obama administration has said it won’t be “business as usual” with Iran until a long-term agreement is reached to end the country’s nuclear program.

“So businesses may be exploring, ‘are there some possibilities to get in sooner rather than later if and when there is a actual agreement to be had?’” Obama during a joint news conference with French President Francois Hollande, responding to the French delegation’s visit. “But I can tell you that they do so at their own peril right now because we will come down on them like a ton of bricks with respect to the sanctions that we control, and we expect full compliance with [active sanctions] during this interim.

“We don’t want new sanctions because the ones we have in place are already squeezing around and brought them to the table, but we also want to send a message to the Iranians that if they don’t resolve this broader issue of their nuclear program, that there will be consequences and that the sanctions regime not only will stay in place but will likely be tightened in the event that these talks fail,” Obama added.

Hollande appeared to echo Obama’s comments, saying that while he has no control over corporate travel, sanctions will remain enforced.

“Companies just make their decisions when it comes to traveling,” Hollande said, according to an interpreter. “But I certainly let them know that sanctions were enforced and would remain enforced. And if contacts were to be made, with a view to a new situation in Iran—a situation where Iran would have renounced the nuclear weapon fully and comprehensively—well, unless such a new situation would prevail, no commercial agreements could be signed.”

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