U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price stuttered his way through questions on two Iranian warships which docked at Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro last week, refusing to say whether Brazilian entities would be subject to secondary sanctions.
Brazil had authorized the entry of two Iranian naval ships, “IRIS MAKRAN” and “IRIS DENA”, at the Rio de Janeiro port, allowing them to dock from February 26 to March 4 2023.
U.S. ambassador Elizabeth Bagley had made an appeal for the Brazilian government to not allow the naval ships to dock in Rio. When pressed, the State Department spokesman refused to comment on whether existing unilateral coercive measures on the Islamic Republic and secondary sanctions would apply to Brazil, referring to the South American country as a U.S. “partner” 15 times.
The Brazilian government has on different occasions stated that unilateral sanctions imposed on countries outside of the UN Security Council have no validity and are not recognized as legitimate under the Brazilian constitution.
Price’s full response at Tuesday’s press briefing can be watched here, followed below by a transcript of the interaction.
QUESTION: So with their warships landing in Brazil last week, does the State Department or White House have any comment for the Brazilian Government specifically? And do you guys view this sort of like through a kind of Monroe Doctrine lens of like they’re on our body of land?
MR PRICE: Countries are going to make their own decisions. The Monroe Doctrine is a legacy of history. It is not something that the United States espouses. We have partners in our hemisphere. Brazil, of course, is a close partner of the United States; it’s a close democratic partner of the United States. It’s our impression that no democracy in this hemisphere or anywhere else would want these kinds of Iranian assets, these warships docking in their ports. We want to continue to work with our Brazilian partners to send the right message to Iran, to others who would pose a threat, pose a challenge to our collective interests around the world. We believe, as we’ve said, that warships like this have no place in the Western Hemisphere, given the signal it sends.
(Price moves to other topics then returns to a follow up from Matt Lee)
QUESTION: Ned, sorry, can I just go back to the Brazil question for a second – the Brazil-Iran question? That is, is the administration going to impose sanctions on the Brazilian port, the port of Rio de Janeiro? And any gas – I don’t know what they take – diesel, whatever it is – any vendors that supplied them with fuel or food or other supplies?
MR PRICE: Matt, you won’t be surprised to hear that we don’t preview those types of actions, but Brazil, of course, is a partner. Brazil is a —
QUESTION: Are they aware? Have you made them aware that they are subject to secondary sanctions given the fact that these two warships are designated?
MR PRICE: We are a partner to Brazil; Brazil is a partner to us.
QUESTION: Have they been told?
MR PRICE: We have discussions with our Brazilian partners on a range of issues. They, I am confident, are aware of existing sanctions authorities, but —
QUESTION: Is it not U.S. law that they must be sanctioned?
MR PRICE: Matt, again, we just don’t —
QUESTION: That they must be – is it not the law that they – that you – this is a violation of those sanctions.
MR PRICE: I would have to look into the law —
QUESTION: So is it not the law that —
MR PRICE: I would have to look into whether these are mandatory and what the details are, but again, our Brazilian partners are sanctions – our Brazilian partners are partners. We are going to do what is most effective together in pushing back on the threat and the challenge that Iran poses to —
QUESTION: What does – does that mean that you could decide that what is most effective is not implementing the law?
MR PRICE: Matt, you know we follow the law. Again, I am – I’m not going to – I’m not – I’m not going to —
QUESTION: I don’t know, you seem to be – you seem not – if it were found that the Brazilian port operator and attendant companies – caterers, fuel suppliers, whoever – provided this – provided these two ships, sanctioned ships, with assistance, with support, would the sanctions apply?
MR PRICE: As we always do, we marry the facts with the law and arrive at a decision, but we don’t preview those decisions.
QUESTION: Okay, so the – so – all right, so the answer is yes, if you do determine that the sanctions were violated, then there will be penalties imposed on your “partners,” quote/unquote, in Brazil at the port of Rio and whoever else.
MR PRICE: Matt, I think you’re zooming a bit far ahead. We marry the facts with the law. We don’t preview any actions we might take, but importantly, Brazil is a partner and we’re having these conversations with our Brazilian partners.
QUESTION: Okay, but you can – but you can say that you will uphold the law.
MR PRICE: Matt, we follow the law.
QUESTION: All right. And then just secondly, on your Monroe Doctrine comment, it was back in 2014 or so that Secretary Kerry declared that the Monroe Doctrine was dead, so that’s not particularly new. But in fact —
MR PRICE: I didn’t intend to make news with that.
QUESTION: Well, I know, but the fact of the matter is – is that it doesn’t really appear to be dead. I mean, you guys say that it is dead, but if you’re going to go ahead and enforce the law when it comes to Brazil and these Iranian warships, that would seem to – now, granted, Iran is not Europe, but it would seem to suggest that you are opposed to and will take action against foreign non-Western Hemisphere interference in the Western Hemisphere, which would suggest —
MR PRICE: You’re making – Matt, you’re making a number of assumptions. What is —
QUESTION: I don’t think I’m making any assumptions.
MR PRICE: What is true – what is true and that you are not wrong in relaying is the fact that a country like Iran poses a collective threat to the United States and to our partners in this hemisphere. It is our intention to work collaboratively with our partners in the region but even closer to this neighborhood on those types of threats.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I mean, do you believe that China poses a threat in the Western Hemisphere, in places like Panama and Central America, in places where they’re making inroads?MR PRICE: These are decisions that governments are going to have to make on a sovereign basis. Our intention in engagement with these governments is to see to it to do everything we can that their decisions are informed decisions. These are not decisions for us to make.
By Kawsachun News