President Donald Trump’s administration has officially restored sanctions on Iran that went away with the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.

At the same time, SWIFT, a financial messaging service based in Belgium, announced it will suspend “some unspecified Iranian banks’ access to its messaging system in the interest of the stability and integrity of the global financial system,” but did not mention the US sanctions.

The story with SWIFT deserves more attention because Europe hoped that if the company didn’t cut off Iranian banks then the 2015 nuclear deal could stay alive. Reuters stated that the company probably didn’t mention the sanctions because “it is caught between two contrary regulatory demands.

The Associated Press described SWIFT as a “network connects 11,000 banks and financial institutions in 200 countries and territories, while prizing itself on taking a neutral political stance.” The AP continued:

SWIFT, the Belgian-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, provides banks with a secure messenger network to allow international transfers.

Without its services, Iranian banks will find it more difficult to do business with any client prepared to brave US sanctions to maintain ties with Tehran.

From The Financial Times:

The Belgian-based company said Monday it would suspend “certain Iranian banks’” access to its cross border-payment network — a signal that it will fall into line with a US list of targeted financial institutions due to be published imminently.

Swift’s decision further undermines EU efforts to maintain trade with Iran and save a landmark international deal with Tehran, after President Donald Trump pulled out in May. Swift now faces the threat of punitive action under new EU rules that forbid companies from complying with the US Iran sanctions.

Swift said: “In keeping with our mission of supporting the resilience and integrity of the global financial system as a global and neutral service provider, Swift is suspending certain Iranian banks’ access to the messaging system. This step, while regrettable, has been taken in the interest of the stability and integrity of the wider global financial system.”

Since SWIFT has decided to comply with the sanctions, the EU may seek another way to keep trading ties with Iran. Back in September, Axios reported that China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom reached an agreement to take this route.

Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin insisted “that such a move could trigger sanctions against any financial institution that engages in ‘certain significant transactions’ with Iran.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained that these sanctions could “crumble” Iran’s economy. From Fox News:

On Monday, the administration said it restored previously lifted sanctions on Iranian banking, shipping and energy. Officials announced sanctions on 50 Iranian banks, 200 individuals and ships, an Iranian airline and more than 65 airplanes in what the Treasury Department said is its “largest ever single-day action targeting Iran.”

“The Iranian regime has a choice: It can either do a 180-degree turn from its outlaw course of action and act like a normal country, or it can see its economy crumble,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “I promise you that doing business with Iran in defiance of our sanctions will ultimately be a much more painful business decision.”

“We are at an economic war situation. We are standing up to a bullying enemy,” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. “Yesterday, Saddam was in front us, today Trump is front of us. There is no difference. We must resist and win.”

Despite Pompeo’s promise to crumble Iran’s economy, the administration provided waivers to Iran’s biggest oil customers: China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey.

Pompeo claimed that these countries have “already demonstrated significant reductions of the purchase of Iranian crude over the past six months.”


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