In an interview with Fortune Magazine’s Nina Easton, Dick Cheney conceded that as Halliburton CEO he opposed unilateral sanctions on Iran, even though he now strongly supports them. Cheney explained that as a private sector official, he didn’t have any responsibility to be concerned about the impact of his company’s dealings with Iran:
Q: You opposed unilateral sanctions on Iran when you were CEO of Halliburton.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I did.
That’s a whole set of considerations that a CEO doesn’t have to worry about, that a private company doesn’t have to worry about. But the President of the United States does.
What Cheney conveniently neglects to mention is that Halliburton evaded U.S. law in order to deal with Iran. The International Emergency Economic Powers Act authorizes the president to block transactions and freeze assets to deal with rogue nations. In 1995, President Clinton signed an executive order barring U.S. investment in Iran’s energy sector. To evade U.S. law, Halliburton set up an offshore subsidiary that engaged in dealings with Iran.
In 1996, Cheney blasted the Clinton administration for being “sanction-happy as a government.” “The problem is that the good Lord didn’t see fit to always put oil and gas resources where there are democratic governments,” Cheney explained of his desire to do business with Iran.
ABC’s Sam Donaldson confronted Cheney about this in 2000, only to hear Cheney obfuscate about his dealings with Iran:
DONALDSON: I’m told, and correct me if I’m wrong, that Halliburton through subsidiary companies was actually trying to do business with Iraq.
CHENEY: No. No, I had a firm policy that we wouldn’t do anything in Iraq, even arrangements that were supposedly legal. What we do with respect to Iran and Libya is done through foreign subsidiaries totally in compliance with U.S. law.
DONALDSON: Make a way around U.S. law?
CHENEY: No, no, it’s provided for us specifically with respect to Iran and Libya. Iraq’s different, but we’ve not done any business in Iraq since the sanctions were imposed, and I had a standing policy that I wouldn’t do that.
Cheney’s evasion of U.S. law to deal with Iran has been well-documented. As the Bush administration now presses for tougher sanctions against Iran, Cheney should concede that Halliburton violated the spirit of the law and encourage other U.S. companies not to follow his lead.