ShareThis Page
‘Financial equivalent of United Nations’ may ban Iran |

‘Financial equivalent of United Nations’ may ban Iran

The Associated Press
| Saturday, February 18, 2012 12:00 a.m

BRUSSELS — An international banking clearinghouse crucial to Iran’s oil sales said on Friday that it is preparing to discontinue services to Iranian financial institutions, an unprecedented and potentially devastating blow to Tehran as the West ramps up a campaign to stop its nuclear program.

The statement by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, known as SWIFT, suggests that the European Union — under pressure from Washington — is close to approving regulations that will require the Brussels-based hub to evict Iranian institutions from its ranks.

“If SWIFT follows through on its public commitment to ban Iranian banks, it could sever the Iranian regime’s financial lifeline,” said Mark Dubowitz, an Iran sanctions expert advising the Obama administration. “It would also be a significant political embarrassment for the regime: Iran would be the first country in SWIFT’s history to be expelled from what is the financial equivalent of the United Nations.”

Getting Iranian financial institutions barred from SWIFT would leapfrog the slow-pressure campaign of sanctions aimed at getting Tehran to drop its desire for nuclear weapons. It also could help the United States persuade Israel not to open a pre-emptive military strike on Iran in the spring.

Established in 1973, the essential but little-known financial hub operates on trust and neutrality — SWIFT accepts nearly all comers and does not judge the merits of the transactions passing through its secure message system. More than 40 Iranian banks and institutions use SWIFT to process financial transactions, and losing access to that flow of international funds could badly damage the Islamic republic’s economy. It probably would hurt average Iranians more than the welter of existing banking sanctions in place because prices for household goods would rise while the value of Iranian currency would drop.

Some American lawmakers have been pushing for sanctions on SWIFT if it keeps up its services to Iran. SWIFT lawyers are planning a trip to Washington next week for meetings with Congress, and the announcement yesterday was widely seen as a way to head off that action.

Categories: News
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.