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Cheney Lobbied Congress To Ease Sanctions Against Terrorist Countries While He Was CEO Of Halliburton
by Jason Leopold
July 25, 2004

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Vice President Dick Cheney is a bad guy. He can toss around the F-word all he wants in response to the criticism directed at him as a result of his close ties to Halliburton, the company he headed from 1995-2000, but he can’t hide from the truth.

It was Cheney who urged Congress in 1996 to ease sanctions against Iran, a country that’s part of President Bush’s axis of evil, so Halliburton could legitimately do business there.

During a trip to the Middle East in March 1996, Cheney told some U.S. businessmen that Congress should ease sanctions in Iran and Libya to foster better relationships with those countries.

"Let me make a generalized statement about a trend I see in the U.S. Congress that I find disturbing, that applies not only with respect to the Iranian situation but a number of others as well," Cheney said at the time. "I think we Americans sometimes make mistakes...There seems to be an assumption that somehow we know what's best for everybody else and that we are going to use our economic clout to get everybody else to live the way we would like."

The last part of Cheney’s statement could easily sum up the Bush administration’s past three years in office, but that’s another story.

Now Halliburton is being investigated by a grand jury for possibly violating federal sanctions while Cheney was chief executive of the company by doing business in Iran. That hasn’t stopped Cheney from repeatedly sticking his foot in his mouth. On the campaign trail, Cheney has been saying that Iran has ties to al-Qaeda and some of the 9-11 hijackers. But when Cheney was chief executive of Halliburton he wasn’t concerned about that. But former President Bill Clinton was. The Clinton administration said U.S. companies conducting business in Iran may be inadvertently helping fund terrorist activities in that country.

In March 1995, Clinton signed an executive order that prohibited "new investments (in Iran) by U.S. persons, including commitment of funds or other assets." It also restricts U.S. companies from performing services "that would benefit the Iranian oil industry. Violation of the order can result in fines of as much as $500,000 for companies and up to 10 years in jail for individuals."

When Bush and Cheney were sworn into office in 2001 the administration decided it would not punish foreign oil and gas companies that invest in Iran or other countries that sponsor terrorism, including Syria and Libya.

The sanctions imposed on countries such as Iran and Libya before were blasted by Cheney before he became vice president, despite claims that those countries may have ties to terrorism.

"I think we'd be better off if we, in fact, backed off those sanctions (on Iran), didn't try to impose secondary boycotts on companies ... trying to do business over there ... and instead started to rebuild those relationships," Cheney said during a 1998 business trip to Sydney, Australia, according to Australia's Illawarra Mercury newspaper.

Halliburton first started doing business in Iran as early as 1995. According to a February 2001 report in the Wall Street Journal, "U.S. laws have banned most American commerce with Iran. Halliburton Products & Services Ltd. works behind an unmarked door on the ninth floor of a new north Tehran tower block. A brochure declares that the company was registered in 1975 in the Cayman Islands, is based in the Persian Gulf sheikdom of Dubai and is "non-American." But, like the sign over the receptionist's head, the brochure bears the Dallas company's name and red emblem, and offers services from Halliburton units around the world."

In the February 2001 report, the Journal quoted an anonymous U.S. official as saying "a Halliburton office in Tehran would violate at least the spirit of American law." Moreover, a U.S. Treasury Department website detailing U.S. sanctions against Iran bans almost all U.S. trade and investment with Iran, specifically in oil services. The Web site adds: "No U.S. person may approve or facilitate the entry into or performance of transactions or contracts with Iran by a foreign subsidiary of a U.S. firm that the U.S. person is precluded from performing directly. Similarly, no U.S. person may facilitate such transactions by unaffiliated foreign persons."

Wendy Hall, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, said in an interview with me last year that Halliburton may not agree with Iran’s “policies or actions” and the company makes “no excuses for their behaviors” but “due to the long-term nature of our business and the inevitability of political and social change, it is neither prudent nor appropriate for our company to establish our own country-by-country foreign policy."

Hall added that "decisions as to the nature of such governments and their actions are better made by governmental authorities and international entities such as the United Nations as opposed to individual persons or companies. Putting politics aside, we and our affiliates operate in countries, to the extent it is legally permissible, where our customers are active as they expect us to provide oilfield services support to their international operations."

Recently, evidence surfaced showing that Cheney’s office was aware that Halliburton would receive a no-bid contract to secretly plan restoration of Iraq's oil facilities five months before the Iraq war began.

Some of the other highlights while Cheney ran Halliburton:

In 1995, Halliburton paid a $1.2 million fine to the U.S. government and $2.61 million in civil penalties for violating a U.S. trade embargo by shipping oilfield equipment to Libya. Federal officials said some of the well servicing equipment sent to Libya by Halliburton between late 1987 and early 1990 could have been used in the development of nuclear weapons. President Reagan imposed the embargo against Libya in 1986 because of alleged links to international terrorism.

But the fact that Halliburton may have unwillingly helped Libya obtain a crucial component to build an atomic bomb only made Cheney push the Clinton administration harder to support trade with Libya and Iran.

Cheney’s choice of words to express his frustration about being mentioned in the same sentence as Halliburton suddenly makes sense.

Jason Leopold is the former Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires where he spent two years covering the energy crisis and the Enron bankruptcy. He just finished writing a book about the crisis, due out in December through Rowman & Littlefield.

Other Articles by Jason Leopold

* Enron’s Lay, Skilling, Washington Lobbyist Knew About Company’s Trading Schemes In CA
* Some of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Energy Advisers Pushing for a Competitive Electricity Market Contributed Heavily to Gov's Campaign
* Schwarzenegger Pulls a Cheney: Aides Refuse to Identify People Who Drafted Cal Energy Plan
* Got Juice? California May Be Saddled With Severe Power Shortages This Summer
* Rice Never Spoke About Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden Before 9/11, Investigation Shows
* Company With Ties to VP Cheney's Energy Task Force Faces Criminal Indictment
* VP Cheney Helped Cover Up Pakistani Nuke Proliferation
* Spying On UN Sec. General Part Of Larger Campaign to Undermine UN Missions In Iraq
* Halliburton, VP Cheney’s Former Company Faces Second Criminal Probe In Four Years
* CIA Intel Reports Seven Months Before 9/11 Said Iraq Posed No Threat to US
* O’Neill’s Claims Against Bush Supported By 1998 Letters to By Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz
* Bush Should Face "Long, Hard Slog" of a Campaign, But Dems Busy Fighting Each Other
* Halliburton Doing Biz In Iran, Despite NYC Pension Funds Concerns of Terrorism
* Emails Show Enron May Have Influenced FERC Probe On California Power Crisis, Refunds

* Schwarzenegger’s First Role As Governor-Elect of California: The Deregulator
* Dems Scrap Plans To Look Into Claims White House Manipulated Intel On Iraqi Threat
* The Business of E-Voting and How it Can Put the Wrong Candidate in Office
* Ahnuld, Ken Lay, George Bush, Dick Cheney and Gray Davis
* Wolfowitz: Iraq Was Not Involved In 9-11 Terrorist Attacks, No Ties To Al-Qaeda

* White House Said In Jan. It Used Info From Iraqi Exiles In Bush’s State of Union Speech

* CIA Probe Finds Secret Pentagon Group Manipulated Intelligence on Iraqi Threat

* Tenet Tells Senators Wolfowitz Committee Gave White House Dubious Intelligence

* Wolfowitz Committee Told White House to Hype Dubious Uranium Claims

* “The Road to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions

* CIA Warned White House Last Oct. Iraq/Uranium Claims Based On Forged Docs

* Wolfowitz Aimed to Undermine Blix So US Could Strike Iraq

* White House Silenced Experts Who Questioned Iraq Intel Info Six Months Before War

* Powell Denies Intelligence Failure

* The Iraq War Was Always Based On Shaky Evidence and Bad Intel

* Wolfowitz Admits Iraq War Was Planned Two Days After 9/11

* Despite Thin Intelligence Reports, US Plans To Overthrow Iranian Regime

* Cheney’s Old Company Continues To Break Laws While Profiting From Terror

* FERC and Wall Street: Conversations May Have Violated Federal Law