Elon Musk’s hope to operate his satellite internet firm in Iran requires permission from the US Treasury Department, which said it welcomes applications to support internet freedom in the country that is largely isolated from Western economies.
The Tesla CEO tweeted Monday that his satellite internet firm Starlink would seek permission to operate in Iran. National security adviser Jake Sullivan said it’s up to Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to decide on Starlink’s next steps.
“We have of course, in the past, provided for various forms of exemptions for the Iranian people’s ability to communicate with each other and with the world,” Sullivan said during a White House press briefing Tuesday.
Starlink, a division of spacecraft manufacturer SpaceX, also owned by Musk, has been in operation since 2019. It disperses thousands of satellites orbiting the Earth to provide broadband access globally.
A Treasury spokesperson, speaking on condition of anonymity because no application has been received, said the Office of Foreign Assets Control welcomes applications for licenses to authorize activities supporting internet freedom in Iran.
In 2014, Treasury’s sanctions arm issued a license authorizing exports of software and services to Iran that would allow the free exchange of communication over the internet, with the intent to foster the free flow of information to Iranian citizens.
Despite the allowance, firms have been reluctant to do business in Iran, due to fears of violating existing sanctions and other laws that impose penalties.