Don’t Let Iran’s Rulers Abuse the Humanitarian Channel to the Detriment of the People
The following is an excerpt:
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced today that the global financial messaging service SWIFT “would be subject to U.S. sanctions” if it does not remove designated Iranian banks from its system “as soon as technologically feasible.” He noted that humanitarian transactions with non-designated Iranian entities are permissible but warned, “People need to be careful that those are real humanitarian transactions,” not illicit transactions disguised as food and medical trade. The warning is well deserved, as that is exactly how the Islamic Republic exploited the humanitarian exemption after its banks were “de-SWIFTed” in 2012.
Six years ago, in response to congressional initiatives threatening to sanction SWIFT, the organization removed sanctioned Iranian banks from its network. The ban, however, was not total. The U.S. Treasury and EU regulators intentionally left a few Iranian banks connected as a humanitarian channel to avoid measures that would unduly harm the Iranian people. Officials had committed to monitoring Iran’s transactions to prevent illicit funds from moving through the SWIFT system.
Despite these assurances, a December 2013 corruption scandal in Turkey revealed that Iranian banks were using SWIFT for illicit financial transactions. A leaked prosecutor’s report showed SWIFT transaction receipts as Iranian banks processed sanctions-busting transactions. Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, at the center of the scheme, pleaded guilty in U.S. court last year to facilitating billions of dollars in illicit transactions.
Read the complete policy brief by Mark and Annie Fixler on FDD’s website here.