Musk to seek exemption from Iranian sanctions for web access

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WASHINGTON – Elon Musk’s hope to operate his satellite internet company in Iran requires clearance from the Treasury Department, which said on Tuesday it welcomes applications to support internet freedom in the country which is largely isolated from Western economies.

Tesla CEO tweeted on Monday that his satellite internet company Starlink would apply for permission to operate in Iran. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said it was up to the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to decide Starlink’s next steps.

“We have of course in the past provided various forms of exemptions for the Iranian people’s ability to communicate with each other and with the world,” Sullivan said during a White House press briefing on Tuesday.

Starlink, a division of spacecraft maker SpaceX, also owned by Musk, has been in operation since 2019. It disperses thousands of satellites orbiting Earth to provide broadband access around the world.

The company attempted to provide internet access to the Ukrainian people during the Russian invasion and acquired contracts with the US Army since 2021.

If Starlink internet access is provided to the general Iranian population, it could be met with objection from the government, which tightly controls internet access.

A Treasury spokesperson, speaking on condition of anonymity because no applications have been received, said the Office of Foreign Assets Control welcomes applications for licenses to authorize activities supporting internet freedom in Iran.

In 2014, the Treasury sanctions arm issued a license authorizing exports of software and services to Iran that would enable the free exchange of communications over the Internet, with the aim of fostering the free flow of information to Iranian citizens.

Despite the allocation, companies have been reluctant to do business in Iran for fear of violating existing sanctions and other laws that impose sanctions.

However, in January 2021, Github – a source code storage service – announced that it had obtained a license from the Treasury to offer its services to developers in Iran.

“We were able to demonstrate how developers’ use of GitHub advances human progress, international communication, and the enduring U.S. foreign policy of promoting free speech and the free flow of information,” said the company. website states.

A representative for SpaceX did not respond to an Associated Press request for comment.

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