South Africa's Sasol asked to end its business with Iran

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) has called on South African energy giant Sasol to immediately declare an end to its business in Iran and take the steps necessary to complete such an exit. The statement was issued on Jan. 4.

Sasol maintains an active presence in Iran through the Arya Sasol Polymer Company (ASPC), which operates two polyethylene plants in Iran. The company is a $900 million joint venture between Sasol and Iran’s state-owned National Petrochemical Company (NPC). The NPC is sanctioned by the US and is identified by the international community as an entity of concern for procurement of weapons of mass destruction and proliferation.

Sasol said as far back as October 2011 that it would divest from Iran, but has not yet followed through on that pledge, said UANI.

Last month, UANI wrote to Sasol regarding its ongoing business in Iran. In a Dec. 19 letter to Sasol executives, UANI CEO, Ambassador Mark D. Wallace, noted that the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) in December identified Sasol on a list of “Foreign Firms Engaged in Commercial Activity in Iran’s Energy Sector.”

UANI also expressed concern that the Iranian regime’s media outlet Fars News had quoted Eric Roper, ASPC’s managing director, as saying: “Sasol Company is satisfied with investment in Iran and doesn’t intend to leave the country at all.”

UANI also noted that Sasol, at the same time, “has aggressively sought to expand its business operations in the United States,” including building a multi-billion dollar plant in Westlake, Louisiana. Given the clear conflict of doing business in both Iran and in the US, UANI called on Sasol “to immediately clarify the full extent and nature of its Iran business dealings, as well as to provide a definitive date as to when such business dealings will end.”

UANI then received direct correspondence from Sasol. In that correspondence, Sasol stated that its CEO, David Constable, “is not involved in any matter regarding Sasol’s activities in Iran,” and that while Sasol “has also taken active steps to reduce and eventually cease all of its business with Iran[,] … Divesting of Sasol’s interest in ASPC has unfortunately proved to be more complicated than originally anticipated.” Said Sasol: “We are unable to commit to a fixed date for our activities to cease …”

UANI said it finds Sasol’s failure to commit to ending its activities in Iran “unacceptable,” and is calling for Sasol to immediately declare an end to its Iran business, and take the necessary steps to achieve this.

Ambassador Wallace wrote a sharp letter to Sasol executives dated Jan. 4 in which he noted that 14 months have passed since the company announced its intention to divest its Iran business, but that Sasol has thus far failed to complete such divestment. He warned that Sasol’s continuing presence in Iran is being exploited by the regime for propaganda purposes.

In his letter, Wallace stated, “There are limits to the public’s empathy for companies like Sasol that enter into business with the Iranian regime. Investments in violent, terror-sponsoring states subject to punitive multilateral sanctions and international censure carry significant financial risk. Any financial loss by Sasol as a result of its divestment from Iran is a direct consequence of assuming such risks.”

UANI has requested a reply from Sasol by Jan. 11.

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