By FATIMA HUSSAIN – Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Elon Musk’s hope to operate his satellite Internet company in Iran requires approval from the Treasury Department, which said Tuesday it is welcoming bids to support Internet freedom in a country largely isolated from Western economies.
CEO of Tesla tweeted Monday that his satellite Internet firm Starlink will seek a permit to operate in Iran. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the decision on Starlink’s next steps was up to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
“In the past, of course, we have provided various forms of exceptions to the ability of the Iranian people to communicate with each other and with the world,” Sullivan said during a White House press briefing on Tuesday.
Starlink, a division of spacecraft manufacturer SpaceX, which is also owned by Musk, has been operating since 2019. It scatters thousands of satellites orbiting the Earth to provide broadband access around the world.
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The firm tried to provide Internet access for the Ukrainian people during the Russian invasion and did so purchased contracts with the American armed forces as early as 2021.
If Starlink Internet access is made available to the Iranian population, it may be over the objections of the government, which tightly controls Internet access.
A Treasury official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because no applications have been received, said the Office of Foreign Assets Control welcomes applications for licenses to authorize activities that support Internet freedom in Iran.
In 2014, a division of the Ministry of Finance sanctions issued a license authorizing the export of software and services to Iran that would allow the free exchange of information over the Internet, in order to facilitate the free flow of information for Iranian citizens.
Despite the permit, firms are reluctant to do business in Iran for fear of violating existing sanctions and other punitive laws.
However, in January 2021, Github—a source code repository—announced that it had received a license from the Ministry of Finance to offer its services to developers in Iran.
“We were able to demonstrate how developer use of GitHub contributes to human progress, international communication, and the ongoing US foreign policy of promoting free speech and the free flow of information,” the company said in a statement. site states.
A spokesman for SpaceX did not respond to an Associated Press request for comment.
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