Sanction-busting smugglers flock to OmanJuly 16, 2013
Barack Obama has said, “We’ve imposed the toughest sanctions in history.” But with respect to Iran, the sanctions regime looks more like a game of whac-a-mole where, as one sanctions loophole pops up and is beaten down, another loophole or workaround pops up somewhere else. In the latest illustration of this, the UAE has been pressured to clamp down on smuggling to Iran, and an island off the coast of Oman has begun picking up the slack.
Iranian smugglers set up shop in coastal Oman
Due to the ramping up of international sanctions, many Iranian merchants who were working legally in Dubai are leaving and heading to Khasab, a small coastal town in Oman, where smuggling is rife.
Khasab, in the southern part of the Hormuz Strait, is conveniently located just 45 kilometres from the Iranian island of Qeshm. Many Iranian merchants who previously worked in the UAE are now establishing themselves in Khasab, where they rely on “shooties” – a local term for smugglers – to take their goods to Qeshm and from there to the rest of Iran.
According to our Observers, as well as other reports, both Omani and Iranian police appear to turn a blind eye to this practice. A photographer who recently travelled to the region told FRANCE 24 that the Omani authorities try to prevent this from making the news. He said that after taking photos of the smugglers, he was repeatedly interrogated, made to erase almost all his photos, and warned to stay away from Iranians working in Khasab.
Many Iranian businessmen have quit Dubai in the past couple of years because UAE authorities — under pressure from the United States — have made it increasingly difficult for them to work there. Many Iranian businessmen’s bank accounts have been frozen; they no longer enjoy banking facilities such as loans; and work permits are increasingly difficult to obtain. According to one veteran Iranian businessman FRANCE 24 spoke to, such measures have pushed Iranians who were previously working in the UAE legally to go to Oman, and smuggle their goods to Iran via Khasab: “They simply could no longer compete with non-Iranian merchants and were incurring loses. Doing business here in Dubai has now become almost impossible for Iranians”…