OFAC Backs Down?

Reuters reports that OFAC is backing down.

“OFAC’s previous guidance was interpreted by some as discouraging the publication of dissident speech from within these oppressive regimes. That is the opposite of what we want,” Stuart Levey, Treasury’s undersecretary for the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement.

“This new policy will ensure those dissident voices and others will be heard without undermining our sanctions policy,” Levey said.

The new rule allows U.S. publishers to engage in “most ordinary publishing activities” with people in Cuba, Iran and Sudan, while maintaining restrictions on interactions with government officials and agents of those countries.

Under the previous rule, a license was required to publish authors from embargoed countries such as Iran — a nation dubbed in 2002 as part of the “axis of evil” by President Bush along with Iraq and North Korea.

For the legally inclined, the relevant document appears here.

Was it the fear of being seen as opposing that freedom of speech martyr, Salman Rushdie? Or being publicly rebuked by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi? Or the relentless work of activists, writers, publishers, journalists, and all others who have protested? Whatever the cause, OFAC’s backing down from the requirements of a license is a victory, though given their track record this past year, optimism should be tinted with caution.

Thanks to Hurree for the Reuters link.