At the end of December, there was a flurry of discussion — including this article in the New York Times — on the licenses or "exceptions" given to American companies that allow them to do business with embargoed or sanctioned countries. It cites that nearly 10,000 licenses have been issued in the last ten years — that's nearly 4 per day for those 10 years. That is a level of productivity to be admired — can you think of a salesperson, a reporter or an artist so prolific? The number also seems exceedingly high when compared to the number of civil penalties and settlements issued by Treasury in the last 3 years — just 150.
Such licenses can be issued for the provision of "humanitarian aid". However, it was uncovered that some have been issued for things like cigarettes, gum, weight-loss remedies, hot sauce and even fitness equipment for Iran's Olympic athletes (4 were sent to the 2010 Winter Olympics).
Even when allowing that such licenses are clearly not "humanitarian", or barely even "aid", are licenses of this sort something to be concerned about? Hardly...unless there is an Iranian MacGyver who has figured out a way to create nuclear weapons from hot sauce and chewing gum.
But, that said, are licenses of this sort something that should be looked at more closely? Definitely! With stronger regulations issued regarding Iran one can likely assume that the U.S. Treasury will also beef up the process by which licenses are approved.