The move came unexpectedly and developers have been taken by surprise, especially those working on large or lengthy projects who have now lost all of the work they had in progress.
The company’s CEO, Nat Friedman, in a message on Twitter on 27th July said: “To comply with US sanctions, we unfortunately had to implement new restrictions on private repos and paid accounts in Iran, Syria, and Crimea.”
He expressed his regret that trade restrictions are adversely affecting individuals and said that GitHub has “gone to great lengths to do no more than what is required by the law”. However he said that despite the company’s best efforts, GitHub clients have still been affected. He specified: “GitHub is subject to US trade law, just like any company that does business in the US.”
The abrupt move has angered many people who have voiced their dismay directly to Friedman on Twitter, but he said that the company, as much as it regrets the decision, cannot risk being held noncompliant with the U.S. governments sanctions on Iran, Crimea, Cuba, Syria and North Korea. He said: “We’re not doing this because we want to; we’re doing it because we have to. GitHub will continue to advocate vigorously with governments around the world for policies that protect software developers and the global open source community.”
The GitHub users affected by the company’s move received a message saying: “Due to U.S. trade controls law restrictions, your account has been restricted.” The message invites any accountholders that believe their account has been flagged in error to initiate an online appeal process.
The United States has put tough sanctions in place for Iran because of its belligerent behaviour. U.S. President Donald Trump has been clear on the course of action that he is pursuing with regards to Iran. He said that appeasement policies have proven to be ineffective, especially as trialled by this predecessor’s administration.
The Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign is designed to squeeze the Iranian regime so that it has no choice but to put a halt to some of its malign activities, including the funding of terrorists militias and proxy groups.
European governments are still leading policies of relative appeasement and the effects of the two approaches are marked. Iran has recently seized a British-flagged vessel and it refusing to release it and its crew. Instead of sanctioning Iran for this “act of piracy”, the British government is simply sending reinforcements to guarantee the safe passage of its other vessels.
Sanctions are a major inconvenience to the people of Iran because they are suffering from the effects too, but the people also know that the more pressure on the regime the better for them in the long run because they want the regime to collapse.