The United States-led sanctions against Iran have impacted another company: Samsung and its app store.
As of May 22, Iranian Samsung phone owners will no longer have access to Samsung’s app store, as the Associated Press reports.
Since the late ’70s, the U.S. has used sanctions to target the Iran’s pocketbook. While this is all done in an attempt to influence Iran’s policies, the sanctions have had a greater affect on the Iranian people and the foreign companies that still work within its borders.
In a message sent to customers, Samsung blamed “legal” barriers for the move, though there isn’t much detail beyond that.
There are a few theories, however. Farhad Alavi, a lawyer whose practice focuses on international trade issues, says the move is all about covering up what he calls the “exposure points” in Samsung’s Iran operation.”The problem that you have with something like an app store is that lots of those apps are probably made by Americans,” he said.
There’s also the server question. Samsung may be a Korean company, but if any of the servers housing its services or apps are in the U.S., dealing with Iran could expose it to significant blowback from the U.S. government. It’s hard to say for sure.
Jamal Abdi, policy director at the National Iranian American Council, also points to the financial concerns companies like Samsung face when dealing with sanctioned countries.
“There’s a huge chilling effect that the sanctions have had on companies. If you do business with Iran, it’s often tougher to do business with the U.S.,” Abdi said. Current sanctions also place restrictions on what kinds of financial transactions come out of Iran, which also complicates things for Samsung.
That’s a lot to take in and worry about, which is why it’s not all that surprising that Samsung decided to give up on its app store in Iran rather than try to hash through its legality.
We’ve reached out to Samsung for more details on the situation, but the company has yet to respond.
With the move, Samsung joins companies like Huawei and Nokia-Siemens, which began winding down its operations in Iran last year. At the time, Nokia said that the sanctions against Iran made it almost impossible to do business in the country, and it’s probably fair to assume Samsung has been under similar pressure.
Notably, Samsung is unique among tech companies in its localized support for Persian, which is spoken by 110 million people. U.S. export restrictions prevent companies like Apple and Microsoft from selling their products in Iran at all, as Apple’s corporate policy on export sales notes. (Not that that prevents Iranians from getting their hands on Apple products.)
Iran remains a significant market for Samsung, which is why it’s unlikely that the company is going to completely give up on the country anytime soon.