Iran rial sanctions 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iranian banks under EU sanctions will see their ability to transfer money
internationally dramatically curtailed starting Saturday, in accordance with a
decision by a major financial service cooperative announced
SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial
Telecommunication), which facilitates most international money transfers, took
the unprecedented step of cutting off Iranian banks’ access to its system after
the EU regulators who oversee the Brussels-based cooperative ordered it to do so.
The US and Israel had been intensively lobbying for the move.
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who for months has been calling for “crippling
sanctions” against Iran, welcomed the SWIFT decision, a spokesman in his office
Netanyahu has been raising the SWIFT issue for weeks, including
during his conversations in Ottawa and Washington earlier this
“This was a political blow to Iran to be expelled from what is the
financial equivalent of the UN,” said Mark Dubowitz, who has been advising the
White House and Congress on this and other means of putting economic pressure on
“This is a sign that the regime is increasingly politically
isolated and that the United States and Europe, despite disagreements on
details, are united in their campaign to wage economic warfare on the Iranian
regime,” continued Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for the
Defense of Democracies.
Congress has been pursuing legislation calling
for Iran’s exclusion from SWIFT that would have affected SWIFT itself had it not
Dubowitz said the Obama administration was able to leverage the
congressional effort to help convince the EU to issue a directive to SWIFT on
its own, before legislation was put in place.
Dubowitz called the move “unprecedented” by SWIFT,
which pointed to the extreme level of international sanctions on Iran in making
its first-ever decision to exclude a country’s banks.
But he noted that
despite the weight of the sanctions felt by Tehran, it showed no signs of
changing its nuclear program – the target of the measures – and that more needed
to be done.
One Israeli diplomatic source said this move was “another
important step,” but that others still needed to be taken, and not only by
European and North American countries.
Israel would like to see Beijing
in particular take further steps to isolate Iran, and that is one of the issues
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman is expected to raise during his stop in China
as part of his current trip to Asia.
Liberman met with his South Korean
counterpart, Kim Sunghwan, on Thursday in Seoul, and told him that Israel and
South Korea have similar problems in that both countries need to deal with
nearby dictatorial regimes with nuclear ambitions.
Liberman, according to
a statement put out by his office, said the world needed to learn the lessons
from North Korea’s nuclear drive over the past two decades.
Korea and Iran used deception to gain time and acquire nuclear weapons, and in
both cases the result of those countries acquiring nuclear arms would be
destructive for both the region and the world, he said. The international
community has to act clearly and decisively against the Iranian-Syrian- North
Korean “axis of evil,” he said.
Liberman also told his South Korean
counterpart that beyond the nuclear issue, Iran was exerting an extremely
negative influence on the region, and that in recent days Islamic Jihad has
received encouragement and support from Iran for firing rockets on Israel from
the Gaza Strip. Iran played a role in the recent escalation in the South to
create instability in the region, and to divert the world’s attention from what
was happening in Syria, he said.Reuters contributed to this report.