Austrian bank in Iran freezes business fearing U.S. sanctions

Trump will soon decide whether to extend or expand the Iran nuclear deal.

Oberbank (photo credit: REUTERS/HEINZ-PETER BADER)
Austria’s Oberbank, which, as a result of the 2015 nuclear deal became the first European bank to enter Iran’s financial system, announced it has not moved forward with business transactions in the Islamic Republic because of US sanctions.
“As the first Western financial institution Oberbank reached a financial agreement with Tehran in September. The projects remain ‘on hold’ – the US government massively ‘hinders’ the business,” the Austrian daily Die Presse reported.
The article covered the financial soundness of Oberbank and was subtitled: “Only Iran business has not gained momentum.”
President Donald Trump will soon decide whether to extend US sanctions relief under the nuclear agreement, and demands that Europe agree to tighten existing sanctions.
The paper added that the “secondary sanctions” could also affect firms outside of America: “We must very closely look at that,” said the head of the bank Franz Gasselsberger.
Oberbank is the seventh largest bank in Austria.
Trump said in January that May 12 is the deadline for the European Union to fix the flaws in the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement. Austria, along with Spain and Italy, vehemently opposes amending the accord.
The US wants to make permanent the temporary “sunset clause” barring the Islamic Republic’s pathways to developing nuclear weapons. Under the 2015 pact, Iran will have the right to enrich uranium as much as it wants in several years.
The US also seeks more robust inspections of Iran’s nuclear and military facilities than those the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency currently performs, as well as rigorous restrictions on Tehran’s missile program.
The Trump administration aims to implement an iron-clad plan to contain Iranian expansion in the region and its support of militias such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
In September 2017, Oberbank officials met with representatives of Iran’s central bank and Finance Ministry and inked a massive deal to enable Austrian firms to open projects in the Islamic Republic. The Oberbank-Iran meeting in the Austrian city of Linz covered previously sanctioned business and is supposed to last more than two years, Reuters reported.
A Vienna-based reporter for the Islamic Republic News Agency tweeted in early March that Oberbank was part of a €1 billion credit line with Iran’s regime.
The Danish financial giant Danske Bank also announced last year it will do business with Iran’s regime. A growing number of US state governments – including New Jersey, Colorado, Illinois and Colorado – sanctioned Danske Bank for engaging in Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions activity against Israel.
Danske Bank denies it boycotts the Jewish state.