A bipartisan group of lawmakers said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen should allow Elon Musk’s satellite internet service Starlink to operate in heavily sanctioned Iran as the country faces widespread opposition.
Musk “recently stated that SpaceX would seek a license to provide its satellite-based Starlink Internet service to Iran,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Yellen. “If such a license request is submitted, we urge you to approve it immediately.” Musk made a tweet on Monday calling for the waiver.
The letter was led by New York Republican Representative Claudia Tenney and New Jersey Democrat Tom Malinowski, and was signed by several other lawmakers. He asked the Treasury to clarify its policies for promoting communications access in sanctioned countries and urged the department to issue any necessary “letters of comfort” to entities that provide communications services under a previously issued general license. may be requested to provide.
“Congress is calling on the Treasury Department to do everything possible to help the Iranian people stay connected to the Internet,” Tenney said in a statement. “We need to eliminate any bureaucratic red tape and get it done.”
Demonstrations in Iran began last Friday following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, a young woman who fell into a coma after Tehran’s so-called ethics police arrested her for violating the Islamic dress code. Protests have since been reported in the capital Tehran as well as in several towns and cities including Karaj, Shiraz, Tabriz, Kerman, Kish Island, Yazd, Neshapur, Esfahan and Mashhad.
“The Iranians are taking to the streets to demand justice for Mahsa,” Malinowski said. “We need to do our part to ensure that Iranians stay connected to the outside world.”
Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement that the US should do “everything in our power” to help “brave Iranians who resist injustice”.
A Treasury spokesman said the department already allows some services related to Internet communications, including using satellite terminals such as Starlink, and that it welcomes applications for specific licenses related to Internet freedom in Iran. Is.
Daniel Tannbaum, a partner at Oliver Wyman, said companies are sometimes wary of exposing themselves to the risk of violating US sanctions, even when the service they provide is explicitly authorized by the Treasury. This is especially true in the case of heavily sanctioned jurisdictions such as Iran.
“It becomes a business decision based on risk appetite in space,” Tannenbaum said in an interview. “You need to trust that you have the right controls in place to stay on the right side of the discount.”
The Treasury has begun advertising for a “chief sanctions economist,” which officials say will help ease these kinds of concerns.