In the wake of concerns that the nuclear deal with Iran could boost its military capabilities, Obama administration officials have denied that the U.S. government has not strictly enforced arms sanctions against the middle east power.
Several high ranking officials who oppose the deal say they have doubts that the U.S. could or would maintain and enforce what sanctions will remain in place against Iran once the deal is in place, when it has not done so with previous sanctions.
The nuclear deal requires Iran to dismantle most of its nuclear power infrastructure in exchange for the removal of U.S. lead international sanctions.The lifted embargoes do not include weapons or military related imports.
The officials who do not want to be identified, say that a search of court records and interviews with senior officials show the U.S. has pursued much fewer arms embargo violations against Iran in the last year compared to previous years. The court records show that for the 2014-15 fiscal year, U.S officials filed only two charges against smugglers who had been suspected of selling weapons and associated technology to Iran.
In 2013-14 there were eight charges and in the preceding six years there was an average of 12 such cases per year.
They say the fall in prosecutions did not result from fewer attempts of breaking the arms embargo by Iran, but rather from the reluctance of enforcement agencies and prosecutors to continue committing already scarce resources when they did not know how cases would be affected under any new sanction agreements.
One of the officials says, "There's been a precipitous drop-off. The facts are the facts – there's no other explanation.” The official also added that there was a reticence to pursue the cases because they are so hard to prosecute and are time-consuming.
"And if we're going to normalize things with Iran soon, people are asking, 'Is it worth it?'" said the official
Obama administration officials say they have and will continue continue to "aggressively enforce sanctions".
Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi says "The Justice Department continues to pursue criminal prosecutions against those that seek to circumvent U.S. sanctions involving Iran and other export controls."
An Office of Export Enforcement senior official says it "continues to vigorously enforce sanctions on Iran" with most cases being Iran related.
Treasury Department's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence spokeswoman Elizabeth Bourassa says the department had enforced sanctions at the same rate for the past year and a half.
"Since the start of the negotiating period, OFAC imposed sanctions on more than 100 Iran-related individuals and entities, concluded more than 20 Iran-related enforcement actions, and assessed approximately $525 million in penalties for violations of Iran-related sanctions," says Bourassa.