Today, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) called on South African energy giant Sasol to immediately declare an end to its business in Iran and take the steps necessary to complete such an exit.
Sasol maintains an active presence in Iran through the Arya Sasol Polymer Company (ASPC), which operates two polyethylene plants in Iran. The company is a $900 million joint venture between Sasol and Iran's state-owned National Petrochemical Company (NPC). The NPC is sanctioned by the U.S. and is identified by the international community as an entity of concern for procurement of weapons of mass destruction and proliferation.
Sasol announced in October 2011 that it would divest from Iran, but has not yet followed through on that pledge.
Last month, UANI wrote to Sasol regarding its ongoing business in Iran. In a December 19 letter to Sasol executives, UANI CEO, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, noted that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in December identified Sasol on a list of “Foreign Firms Engaged in Commercial Activity in Iran's Energy Sector.” UANI also expressed concern that the Iranian regime media outlet Fars News had quoted Eric Roper, ASPC's Managing Director, as saying: “Sasol Company is satisfied with investment in Iran and doesn't intend to leave the country at all.”
UANI also noted that Sasol, at the same time, “has aggressively sought to expand its business operations in the United States,” including building a multi-billion dollar plant in Westlake, Louisiana. Given the clear conflict of doing business in both Iran and in the U.S., UANI called on Sasol “to immediately clarify the full extent and nature of its Iran business dealings, as well as to provide a definitive date as to when such business dealings will end.”
UANI then received direct correspondence from Sasol. In that correspondence, Sasol stated that its CEO, David Constable, “is not involved in any matter regarding Sasol's activities in Iran,” and that while Sasol “has also taken active steps to reduce and eventually cease all of its business with Iran[,] … Divesting of Sasol's interest in ASPC has unfortunately proved to be more complicated than originally anticipated.” Said Sasol: “We are unable to commit to a fixed date for our activities to cease …”
UANI finds Sasol's failure to commit to ending its activities in Iran unacceptable, and is calling for Sasol to immediately declare an end to its Iran business, and take the necessary steps to achieve this.
In a letter sent today to Sasol, Ambassador Wallace wrote:
UANI has taken note of the statements contained in Sasol's letter concerning the challenges and complications associated with its Iran business. Ultimately however, Sasol's statement that it is “unable to commit to a fixed date for our activities to cease, as this will compromise our commercial negotiations…” is unacceptable.
As you know, fourteen months have already passed since Sasol's intention to divest its Iran business first became public. Since the time of that public announcement, Sasol has failed to take the necessary action to complete such divestment, a fact which is reflected in the December 2012 Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) Report, “Firms Reported to Have Sold Iran Refined Petroleum Products or Engaged in Commercial Activities in Iran's Energy Sector.” In light of this fact, and the ongoing threat to international peace and security presented by the Iranian regime's illicit nuclear program and sponsorship of terrorism, Sasol's expectation that the American public wait indefinitely and potentially for years for Sasol to “extract the maximum realistic value” for its investment in the Arya Sasol Polymer Company is untenable. …
It has also become clear that Sasol's ongoing presence in Iran is being exploited by the Iranian regime for propaganda purposes … [A] recent report from Fars News includes a statement from the head of Iran's National Petrochemical Company, Abdolhossein Bayat, that “statements [of Sasol's divestment] are only rumors and I categorically deny withdrawal of the African company from Iran.” Clearly, the regime is using Sasol, a multinational energy company, as a touchstone for its rhetoric that international efforts to isolate Iran over its illicit nuclear program are failing... Accordingly, UANI suggests that Sasol immediately issue a public rejection to the regime's false reports in order to clarify the nature of its Iran business activities.
UANI also understands from Sasol's letter that Sasol could “incur significant losses as a result of the sale” of Arya Sasol Polymer Company. Please be advised that UANI does not seek to harm legitimate business. However, there are limits to the public's empathy for companies like Sasol that enter into business with the Iranian regime. Investments in violent, terror-sponsoring states subject to punitive multilateral sanctions and international censure carry significant financial risk. Any financial loss incurred by Sasol as a result of its divestment from Iran is a direct consequence of assuming such risks. …
Finally, Sasol is understandably “excited by the prospect of making significant investments in the energy and chemical industries in the United States.” Unfortunately, Sasol's unwillingness to cease its Iran business is unacceptable to the vast majority of Americans and directly counters the international effort of private and public entities to economically isolate the Iranian regime. …
UANI has requested a reply from Sasol by January 11, 2013.
United Against Nuclear Iran
Nathan Carleton, 212-554-3296
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