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Despite sanctions, the world attends the Iran Oil Show.

To assess U.S. efforts to halt Iran's imperial ambitions, you can look to the city of Natanz, where the Iranian regime is firing up a new generation of centrifuges, or to Syria, where its client regime is shooting democrats in the streets. Then there's Tehran International Fairground, which this week is doing a bang-up business.

From Sunday through Tuesday, the fairground hosted the 16th annual Iran Oil Show, the major trade exhibition for Iran's oil, gas, refining and petrochemical business. These industries are the regime's main financial support, which is why U.S. and international sanctions have sought to deter foreign companies from investing. Yet more than 450 foreign companies from 40 countries attended this week's show.

The largest contingent came from China, which has an extensive record of dealings with Iran and indifference to sanctions. So does U.S. ally Germany, and more than 40 German companies were in Tehran this week. Austrian companies were also well-represented, and the Spanish government sent an official delegation. Also present were India's Essar Group and Norway's Statoil, two firms that previously announced they were cutting ties with Iran—and thereby earned recognition from U.S. officials as examples of successful international pressure. So much for that.

The packed oil expo has Iranian officials boasting. "The domineering countries through their disinformation campaign try to project Iran as inefficient and weak country [sic], but the participation of the western countries in this Oil Show has diffused such efforts against Iran," a member of the Parliament Energy Committee told Shana, the website of the Iranian oil ministry.

It's been a year since Iran's lead nuclear negotiator announced that "sanctions as a tool have already lost their effectiveness." Two months later, in June 2010, the U.S. passed new sanctions—"with teeth," as the Obama Administration put it.

Yet the Administration has been consistently unserious about enforcing those sanctions. Last month the State Department completed a six-month review of investment in Iran's energy industry and opted to punish only one bit player, Belarusneft, a small government-owned firm from Belarus. So now Belarusneft can't do business in U.S. financial markets or with the U.S. government—neither of which it seeks to do anyway, as the State Department admits.

No wonder the stalls were filled at Tehran's oil expo, and the centrifuges keep spinning 180 miles away in Natanz.
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