Shutting Off Iran’s Finances

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“There is no doubt in my mind it is geopolitical hedging. They are trying to get as much (wheat) as they can in the country to blunt the effect of any further escalation in international sanctions,” said Rabobank commodities analyst Nick Higgins. “I think they hit the market hard and early and that from their perspective, limited the chances that anyone could react to such large purchases.” Food shipments are not targeted by sanctions, but the Iranian government is well aware that the price of food as well as the collapse of the local currency could fuel the same kind of unrest that has roiled other Middle East nations. Rory Lamrock, intelligence analyst with security firm AKE confirms that analysis. “If left unchecked, significant hikes in food and basic commodity prices on the ground are likely to be a key source of social unrest,” he noted.

On March 6th, the EU announced that a new round of negotiations between Iran and six nations, the US, UK, France, Germany, China and Russia, will be resuming soon. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Aston said it was time for “real progress.” Real progress reportedly consists of a joint request that Iran freeze production of uranium enriched to 20% purity (a level just below weapons-grade), and then ship its stockpile of the nuclear fuel to a third country. In addition, it is likely they will demand greater access to Iranian nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

How much teeth will the move by SWIFT add to the equation? According to its annual report, 19 Iranian member banks and 25 financial institutions sent and received 2 million messages through SWIFT in 2010. This is SWIFT’s first expulsion of any institution in its 39 years of existence, and its effect is being likened to being expelled from “what is the financial equivalent of the United Nations” according to Mark Dubowitz, a sanctions specialist in Washington, who advised U.S. lawmakers on the SWIFT legislation.

Yet as Foreign Policy reveals, the European Central Bank (ECB) guidelines for SWIFT inadvertently demonstrate the limitations of the system: The guidelines specifically bar access to SWIFT institutions that engage in “money laundering and the financing of terrorism[.]” Over the years, Iran has become quite adept at money-laundering. Last November, Iran was designated as a “Primary Money-Laundering Concern,” by the U.S. government, which imposed new sanctions on Iran’s energy sector. Furthermore, a report titled “Time for the Collapse,” reveals a strategy envisioned by Iranian military elites to destabilize the West through terror, drugs — and money laundering. Moreover, critics contend that SWIFT has breached the sanctions requirements, violated both U.S. and European laws and its own corporate rules in facilitating Iranian transactions. Taking such realities into consideration, it would seem the latest move by the EU may be less effective than advertised.

Nevertheless, the announcement has had an effect on overseas Iranian businessmen, who are shocked. “It will make life even more difficult for us than before, because this is like our lifeline to the outside being cut,” said Naser Shaker, who owns an oil and gas trading company in Dubai. Morteza Masoumzadeh, a member of the executive committee of the Iranian Business Council in Dubai, and managing director of the Jumbo Line Shipping Agency, called the news “devastating” and predicted “the collapse of many banking relations and many businesses.”

Yet even as these moves occur and Iranian businessmen despair, the ultimate question arises once again: can sanctions work? If history is relevant, the answer is no. Nothing up to this point has dissuaded Iran from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. Moreover, a regime with religiously inspired visions of facilitating an apocalypse they believe will engender the return of the Twelfth or Hidden Imam hardly sounds like the “rational actors” many wishful thinkers in the West want them to be. Add the reality that, despite their participation in the latest round of negotiations, Russia and China have been more than willing to use Iran as a counterbalance to U.S. interests and that the Iranian mullahs have a track record of ruthlessness in dealing with internal opposition, and it becomes far more likely the current regime will once again persevere.

As for negotiations, political reality suggests that Iran is not the only entity interested in buying time. The Obama administration would like nothing better than to avoid any serious confrontation with Iran until after the 2012 election. The president is already getting beat up in polls by Americans blaming him (rightly or wrongly) for higher gas prices that would skyrocket if hostilities ensued. No doubt Mr. Obama is also hoping that this latest move by the EU and the upcoming one by the U.S. Congress will persuade Israel to give non-military options one more chance to succeed.

Ironically, the severity of these sanctions may undercut such political calculations. If Iran survives its isolation and/or continues its pursuit of nuclear weapons, only two realistic options remain: a military confrontation — or a nuclear-armed Iran. Meanwhile, the clock continues to wind down.

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  • Roger

    All this sounds so impressive. Until you realize that Iran is very close to nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. This buys them time, and they just had a bunch of grain delivered for their stockpiles.

    This is Obama playing checkers at a chess match. They're tying our hands militarily while they keep us at the table.

    • ★FALCON★

      Right Rog, anyone who thinks that sanctions are going to work hasn't followed the last 35 plus years of the on-going sanctions. Iran will continue to trade with other rogue countries and this is another useless charade.

      Also, DUQU – an innerchangeable component of Stuxnet – has found that Iran already has a triggering device.

    • Stephen_Brady

      I, for one, am ready to pay the higher gas prices that will result from an Israeli attack on Iran. The Mullahs and Ahmadinejad must NEVER get their hands on nuclear weapons.

      Our hands are tied, but not Israel's.

    • BS77

      Yes, the heck with Iran's finances and sanctions etc….it's time to SHUT down their nuclear weapon's facilities and factories….which could take about fifteen minutes. Turn the weapons labs into a smoking pile of rubble. The world will be a safer place.

  • StephenD

    Roger says "This is Obama playing checkers at a chess match."
    I'd say more like Taking a knife to a gun fight.

    • Roger


    • RUI

      Not one to pile in, but I say it's more like taking flowers to a gun fight. Taking a knife is an aknowledgement that at least you ARE in a fight, albeit with the wrong tool for the job. This disastrous administration seems to think we're not in a fight.

  • Ron Carnine

    Who is the most dangerous man in the world? It is the American president. He talks tough but the world knows that his action with the US military makes his administration a toothless old lion. He can't back up his threats (promises?). Iran is going to obtain nuclear weapons and when they get them the are going to attack Israel. Israel cannot afford to wait much longer if it is going to strike. Will such a strike be effective? Probably not, since most of Iran's nuclear ability is already secured under a mountain. Israel can't wait until after American elections, Obama is playing with fire, using Israel to get reelected, something terribly selfish and dangerous. The next few months are going to be very interesting..

  • Alvaro

    "[…] Obama is playing with fire, using Israel to get reelected, something terribly selfish and dangerous."

    What else can you expect from a narcissist like him?

  • ObamaYoMoma

    If Obama puts his reelection campaign above American national security because he fears temporary skyrocketing oil prices will derail his reelection campaign and in the mean time Iran acquires nukes with impunity, it will be the end of the world as we once knew it. As skyrocketing world oil prices on a permanent basis will be the least of our problems, as that Saudi owned Pakistani nuclear weapons arsenal in Pakistan will be proliferated throughout the Sunni Islamic world virtually overnight to counter a nuclear armed Shi'a Iran.

    Hence, the Islamic world with its imperative to make Islam supreme throughout the world will become armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons and world oil prices as a result will inevitably skyrocket on a permanent basis because an Iran with nuclear weapons will inevitably become a far more belligerent and aggressive Iran once it acquires nukes.

    By the way, it will also be the end of Israel, as Israel's once very lucrative tourism industry will come to a very immediate and abrupt halt, and millions of Jews will also inevitably emigrate from Israel to escape probable annihilation. They will also take with them their businesses and industries and that will also destroy Israel's economy and Israel in the process.

    Hence, Israel and its newly discovered gigantic gas fields will soon be subsumed by the Islamic world (Dar al Islam) and the Islamic world's long perpetual jihad of conquest against the Jewish unbelievers in Israel will finally be realized. Which will only serve to make the Islamic world become far more emboldened.

    Meanwhile, why aren't the Republicans pointing out the obvious that Obama is putting his reelection campaign above the national security of the USA?

  • xXx

    This is unbelievable…You can't just stop Iran's money like that because you are EU. No matter who you are you can't do that. So what they have a nuclear project. Actually nobody knows for real what is for that project. When USA or Europe had their nuclear project did somebody said something? I don't think so…Now that Iran got some nuclear business their are shitting their pants…

  • Free Porn

    This is unbelievable…You can't just stop Iran's money like that because you are EU. No matter who you are you can't do that. So what they have a nuclear project. Actually nobody knows for real what is for that project. When USA or Europe had their nuclear project did somebody said something? I don't think so…Now that Iran got some nuclear business their are shitting their pants…

    • ObamaYoMoma

      Apparently, you are so far gone that you stupidly morally equate Muslims with non-Muslims. Could you please explain how you became so mentally incompetent? Did you fall down and hit your head or something?

  • David M

    I – an Iranian citizen, neither Christian nor Jewish — am in pains to say that appeasement and sanctions are not working and mullahs are going to produce (if already not done it, thanks to Pakistan, China, Russia, North Korea, ……..) the bomb and use it. Tens of millions of Iranians hate Islam who have my sympathy and there are tens of millions of Iranians who have become new Nazis and I wish them the worst pain in life.

    • Alvaro

      Take care. Two of my friends are Iranians, and both of them are horrified by the government. The people of Iran deserve better than this.

  • Amused

    Boy , Ahert , you got a real talent for rousing the weakminded . What do you suggest Ahert …..Nuk'em NOW ? More warmongering from CHICKEN-HAWKS .

    • mah29001

      Maybe if Iran didn't spend its money on a nuclear program that it did not need, maybe there would be no talk of war with Iran.

  • Alvaro

    Ahmadinejad is a real pig and should hang at the end of a rope.

    At the same time Obama has participated in f*cking up the Middle East though the "Arab spring" in an alliance with Sunni Saudis and their petrodollars on one side, and the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood on the other. Europe is being swamped with even more Muslim "refugees" because of this.

    The next target is Syria, and then comes Iran. After that, Shia Islam is defeated, the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda is established in the entire region, and Europe is drowning in an ocean of "refugees".

    What is the plan of American foreign policy? To spread orthodox Sunni Islam to the entire planet? If that is the plan, well done. Everything is going according to plan.

  • maghrebchristians

    “Whether or not you want us in the European Union, our influence in Europe is growing. We are more numerous. We are younger. We are stronger.”

    A second-generation Muslim immigrant in Austria has authored a provocative new book in which he argues that Europe’s future is Turkish, whether Europeans like it or not

    Read more:


    • Amused

      keep dreaming pal , soon the imaginary line that muslims no doubt will cross, will be crossed ….then it will be crying time for muslims in Europe . It's building now , but you know civilised people are slower to anger , but when they do ….it will be hell to pay .

  • Steve Chavez

    We need to end financing the UNITED NATIONS since it is this body that is incompetent. Its IAEA is complicit with every enemy of the United States since all their goals are the same: The destruction of Israel which is Obama's secret goal too but who American Jew will still blindly support!

  • Amused

    Take a pill chavez , you are blinded by your hate for the man ….and your regurgitating all the shiiit you been fed by the other moronic members of the hate Obama club . There is no "secret plan " that's a dumbass lie of the malcontent liars of the right , just like kill grandma , and 'SECRIT CONCENTRATION CAMPS being prepared by Obama for all the "good Americans " …'re an idiot Chavez , an insult to your ancestors and an embarrassment to clear thinking Americans . You don't speak for American Jews , they don't need asssholes like you telling them what to do or think , that;s right , not you or the rest of the idiots of your lot .

  • exterminate the jews

    Stop starting wars, you filthy kykes.

    • UCSPanther

      Looks like we got ourselves a troll…

    • mah29001

      Maybe when you stop being a Jew-hater we'll stop, how about that?

    • BS77

      where is the garbage filter on this website?

    • elihu

      You want to try and start that extermination with me? I'm a Jew.

  • DeShawn

    Hey, jew-loving goys: did you now that jews are the biggest mass murderers in history? That's right: the Soviets, run by jews (, killed over 60 million men, women, and children. That's the REAL holocaust. And through their slave trade, your beloved "chosen" killed and enslaved millions of Africans ( So before you worship these demons, remember that they are YOUR ENEMY. They hate you and don't even think of you as human. All you need to do is look at hte talMUD:

    Chew on that, you unholy Christ killers. Try to prove my facts wrong. You can't.

  • Riot Points

    It's an interesting move, I agree with the article that its going to backfire big time and probably force oil up.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Why cut off Irans finances, cut off the oxygen and end the appeasement, Iran will use the bomb when
    it has it and to wait is insane, the Mullahs have to go and the maddinnerjacket should be first to see
    the light of ten thousand suns………………………………………………………..William

  • Cleveland Hoose

    Music began playing when I opened this site, so frustrating!

  • DogsHateRomney

    ~ OBAMA's MARXIST Rules for Radicals



  • john in cheshire

    If we are to neutralise islam then we should target all the ayatollahs, imams, and mullahs. If these vipers were wiped out then perhaps normal people could assert themselves in the muslim world. If we do that and they don't, then my feeling that following islam is a genetic defect would be proven.

  • Saltire

    Interesting that this SWIFT story and action occur; then, IRAN changes it's currency policies to reflect two levels. One level is a street level and the other is an "official" level for trade and imports.

  • mrbean

    The term you correctly used was oblierate – but that is not the vocabulary of our leaders Ivy League mothers boy syndrome of containment (as opposed to victory) that has been around since Korean war and it has failed time and time again and it will fail in Iraqand Afghanistan – and in Iran. And to think the oblieration lesson that the Romans taught us with Carthage is still unlearned. Totally anihilated enemies cannot come back for a rematch.

  • mrbean

    Dead man walking McCain wants us to bomb Iran – and was asked "Then what?" by the journalist. His answer was a errr,,, ahhhh,, we will have to see errr ahhh.. but we have to do something. Imagine that had this dead man walking seen too many winters dog whose day is done as a GOP presidential candidate. No wonder Obama got elected. Well…. my friends…. ahhhh… errr….ahhh

  • kentatwater

    I know he's black, but I imagine that Obama doesn't want war period.

    What an inflammatory and irresponsible thing to say.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    Because that is an inflammatory and irresponsible thing to say.

    Excuse me, but that is an inflammatory and irresponsible thing to do! Apparently, like most unhinged self-hating delusional leftists, you and the truth are at war.

    I know he's black, but I imagine that Obama doesn't want war period.

    Obama's is also half white. In any event, I don't see race when I look at Obama. As a matter of fact, I could care less what race Obama is. What I see instead is gross incompetence on a monumental scale.

    Nevertheless, no one wants war, but sometimes war is a necessary evil and in this case it is a very necessary evil. As if Iran gets nukes with impunity, the world as we all once knew it will be changed forever for the worse. Apparently, you aren't educated and mature enough to be able to connect the dots, which is something you more than demonstrated yesterday.

    Indeed, why don't you go contribute somewhere else where the other contributors match your intellectual level. This place is way above your measly pay grade.

  • Roger

    McCain is a good reason for why we set the retirement age for people.
    He's too far gone to realize he needs to go.

  • Old_BBart_School

    ~ Mr. Bean. – YOU BLOW!

  • Grayzel1

    A very intelligent reply. It is easy to understand why you want the Great King Obama The First to reign again.

  • DogsHateRomney

    Replying to Grayzel1 41p

    Have you read my posts? – They are un-ambiguous.

    Your life allows you to ding me in (less than) 10 minutes.

    You seem unable to engage me on CONTENT, or, Debate me on substance.

    My HUMOR & FACTS are an Epitaph to your emotional posts.