By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
Iran has banned the import of hundreds of American goods that include toilet paper, shuttlecocks, and tanks in a move that appears largely designed to clap alarm bells about creeping U.S. influence.
The 227-item ban list was issued by the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran on December 14 and reportedly sent to the relevant provincial authorities.
The measure comes against a backdrop of warnings among hard-linersthat a recent agreement to curb Tehran's nuclear program could open the door to growing U.S. influence and "infiltration."
U.S. law has long prohibited U.S. individuals or entities from doing business with Iran, a result of the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and taking of American hostages in 1979-81, and that continuing trade embargo would appear to make this recent Iranian move unnecessary.
But Iranian Commerce and Industry Minister Reza Nematzadeh last month ordered a ban on U.S. consumer goods. He touted a necessity "to stop the entry of American consumer goods and to prohibit products that symbolize the presence of the United States in the country."
Nematzadeh cited a demand by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to empower Iranian production and avoid U.S. consumer goods.
Vinegar And Cigars
The Trade Promotion Organization's list also includes cars, billiard tables, nail and shaving products, bottle openers, stamps, chewing gum, vinegar, and cigars.
Khamenei, who has the last say on political and religious affairs in the Islamic republic, has repeatedly warned since the nuclear deal was signed in July of U.S. efforts to "infiltrate" Iran -- including using money and sex to achieve Washington's purported aim.
Other officials from the hard-line faction of Iran's clerically dominated establishment have issued similar warnings.
Tehran's interim Friday Prayers leader, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, was quoted last month as saying that the United States uses "sandwiches" to expand its influence.
"Whenever America has aimed at entering a country, it has done so through sandwiches and McDonald's [restaurants] and opened an infiltration window," Khatami said, according to domestic media.
Iranian imports from the United States include seeds and medical devices.
Some U.S. consumer goods -- such as iPhones and sneakers -- also make their way into Iran through the black market despite decades of the U.S. trade embargo.
The implementation of July's nuclear deal should lead to the removal of some sanctions: U.S. companies will be allowed to sell civilian aircraft and parts to Iran, for instance.
But the remaining trade embargo will still limit U.S. firms' permission to do business in other areas, including the oil industry and consumer goods.
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