The U.S. government reportedly has awarded billions to companies doing business with Iran, often in violation of U.S. sanctions, over the past decade -- a reality that suggests the new round of sanctions being sought through the United Nations could have limited effect.
The New York Times reported Sunday that foreign and multinational American companies have reaped $107 billion in contracts, grants and other payments from the federal government over the past 10 years. The Times analysis found $15 billion of that went to companies violating U.S. sanctions by investing huge amounts in the Islamic Republic's energy sector.
The U.S. government generally discourages investment in Iran and restricts U.S. companies from doing most kinds of trade with the country. That embargo, though, doesn't do much to foreign companies and overseas subsidiaries of U.S. firms, the Times reported.
Further, the newspaper found that the separate Iran Sanctions Act -- which punishes foreign companies pumping over $20 million in a year into Iran's oil and gas sector - has never been enforced.
Part of the concern over investment in Iran's energy sector is that the industry is important for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.