Iran Set to Receive Massive Relief From SWIFT Sanctions
Iranian media outlets have been reporting that Iran is set to receive massive relief from the world’s biggest interbank transfer network, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) sanctions.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Aragchi said on Monday that hundreds of Iranian individuals and bodies, including banks and financial institutions, would be delisted from the SWIFT sanctions immediately upon the Iranian nuclear deal coming into effect, according to Iranian Fars News Agency.
“In the initial step, 800 Iranian institutions, organizations and individuals will be taken off the list on the day the agreement is put into practice,” he said.
SWIFT is the system through which financial institutions move money electronically. Every major global financial institution uses SWIFT. In 2012, the United States successfully pushed for a number of Iranian banks to be barred from using SWIFT.
According to Aragchi, SWIFT sanctions will remain in place only against those blacklisted over connection to arms procurement and sales, missile development and nuclear proliferation. He told Fars News that even those will be lifted at later stages.
“SWIFT is a co-operative organization in charge of securing the safety of global financial transactions and not a system of sanctions against Iran and its citizens; however, it has prevented some Iranian individuals and entities from receiving its services,” he said, noting that the list includes Iranians who have been placed under sanctions by the U.N. Security Council, Europe, and the United States in past years over Iran’s nuclear program.
One of Iran’s institutions receiving relief from SWIFT sanctions is the Central Bank of Iran. Gholamali Kamyab, Deputy Governor of the CBI for Foreign Exchange Affairs, announced the lifting of SWIFT restrictions off of 30 state-run Iranian banks and that they would be rejoining the network in the near future, Mehr News reported.
According to Mark Dubowitz and Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the removal of the SWIFT sanctions was Iran’s main sanctions-related negotiating objective, and was important enough to warrant specific mention in Section 19 of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
According to Schanzer and Dubowitz, SWIFT took priority over access to lucrative European and Asian markets, and even the transfer of $150 billion of its frozen assets into convertible currency, because being barred from SWIFT is tantamount to exclusion from the international financial system.
They also voiced their concern that SWIFT access for Iran would be enabled on the front-end of the deal’s lifetime, since it would allow Iran to become eligible to use the system on Implementation Day, but the United States and its partners would have to wait for decades to know if the deal prevented Iran from going nuclear, a critical asymmetry of the deal.