Thursday, June 19, 2008

Persian Rugs and the Sanction/Embargo by the US Government

It was on the news last night that a Senate panel on Wednesday 06/18/2008 approved legislation to strengthen U.S. sanctions on Iran in an effort to get that country to drop its nuclear program.

The Senate Finance Committee cleared the bill to expand trade and financial sanctions 19-2, and the House of Representatives passed similar legislation last year.

Washington believes Iran harbors ambitions to build an atomic bomb, while Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes.

The measure would strengthen existing U.S. sanctions by tightening the trade ban on goods to and from Iran. For example, it would no longer allow the import of Iranian carpets, caviar, and nuts to the United States.

To air my voice as an Iranian who produces and imports Persian carpets to the US, I wrote two letters while ago and sent them to the senators who are representing California in the senate. I believe that sanctioning the import of Persian carpets to the US will not harm the Iranian government and it will hurt the weavers and the people. Below, I mention my letter.


The Honorable Senator Barbara Boxer
United States Senate
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-3553 Fax: (202) 228-1338

Dear Senator Barbara Boxer,

As a constituent, I am writing to you to express my strong concern regarding
S. 970, the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007, which would tighten sanctions on Iran by expanding the U.S. embargo to handmade carpets. I am Dr. Khosrow Sobhe of SOBCO international Ltd., and these handmade carpet imports from Iran are a cornerstone to my business. Enactment of S.970 would threaten SOBCO International Limited's viability and jeopardize many jobs we provide in the State of California.

Iranian carpets are a handicraft product woven by skilled craftsmen in patterns traditional to Persia. They cannot be obtained elsewhere or replaced by trade with other countries because of their unique quality and design elements. The weaving and export of these carpets to the U.S. market in no way benefits the Government of Iran. To the contrary, they provide livelihoods that help sustain hundreds of thousands of craftsmen and craftswomen who often work in the poorest regions of Iran with no alternative job skills. It was for this very reason that President Clinton in 2000 lifted the embargo on carpets that had been in place since 1987. He did it wisely for the people, not for the Iranian Government.

It is also important to note that when these carpets were subject to the embargo, an underground market evolved, benefiting illegal front operations that hurt both the artisans in Iran and companies like ours, that would not participate and therefore lost sales. Today, Iranian carpets account for (describe extent of commerce with Iran) of my business, and being able to offer them to our customers is essential to my livelihood.

Reinstating the embargo on Iranian carpets, however, will not achieve the purpose of putting pressure on the Iranian government. I believe that the U.S. sanctions efforts should not serve to antagonize the Iranian people who we hope to encourage reform Iran from within. I urge you to oppose language in this bill to extend the import ban to Iranian carpets. We must preserve the President’s authority to exempt items from the embargo at his discretion as appropriate.

Dr. Khosrow Sobhe
Award Winning Producer &
Importer of Persian Rugs
SOBCO International Ltd.
1655 South La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
Tel. 310-770-9085 Fax 310-860-0462

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