U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have the right to negotiate a nuclear deal on behalf of the country with Iran — but that doesn’t mean individual states won’t have a say in the matter.
The Executive Branch in America’s government is about to find out just how much power can be wielded by individual states when they are of a mind.
Some two dozen states have already enacted measures of their own, punishing companies operating in certain sectors of the Iranian economy. For instance, public pension funds worth billions of dollars in assets have been ordered to divest from the firms, and some have been barred from public contracts.
A specific example is Becton Dickinson and Co., a U.S. medical supplies company that sells to Iran legally under current federal regulations. In 2013 and 2014, Michigan divested $45 million from the company. Oddly, the company seemed completely unaware of the loss until contacted by reporters for a comment on the matter. It then issued a statement saying its trade with Iran is authorized by the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees federal sanctions.
More than a dozen states have implemented regulations that do not allow their restrictions to expire until and unless Iran is no longer designated to be a supporter of terrorism, and/or if all U.S. federal sanctions against the Islamic Republic are lifted. These conditions will be difficult to meet, to say the least.
In Kansas and Mississippi, state governments are reportedly considering additional sanctions to target Tehran.
“Our investment sanctions are not tied in any way to President Obama’s negotiations with the Iranians,” Florida GOP State Senator Don Gaetz told Reuters.
“They would have to change their behavior dramatically and we would not be necessarily guided by President Obama or any other president’s opinion about the Iranians,” Gaetz said. The state senator sponsored legislation in 2007 that punished companies with investments in Iran’s energy sector.
At least a dozen states contacted by the news agency said they were not considering changing their sanctions against Iran even in the event a deal negotiated with Iran were to be signed. Some said they would need to adjust their legislation to accommodate the divestment policies vis a vis the new federal status if a deal were signed.
In all of the states, the divestment measures had bipartisan support and typically were signed into law by Republican and Democratic governors alike.