In the Sept. 14 Washington Post, Josh Rogin is all shocked and upset about a report that people in the US Treasury Department, apparently supported by, if not outright led by, Secretary Steve Mnuchin, have been stonewalling or slow-moving a memo that was ordered up by President Trump in late July in order to implement the fully renewed financial sanctions against Iran, specifically to disallow Iranian banks from using the international SWIFT settlement system, which was imposed on them in 2012-2015, and many think played a crucial role in bringing Iran to the negotiating table to make the nuclear deal the US is now abrogating. Apparently Trump needs to sign this memo for this to go forward, but he is getting angry that it has not come out of Treasury where it seems to be “lost.”
Rogin is really outraged. According to his sources, Richard Goldberg (wrote SWIFT ban on Iran for Obama) says, “The only hope for the president’s strategy to succeed is getting SWIFT to disconnect all the Iranian banks…And if the Treasury Department waffles one iota on that mission, they are setting up the president for failure.”
Good for them! Let the president fail on his idiotic violation of international law!
He then blathers about how awful Iran is because it “illicitly” provides aid for the Syrian government, Hezbollah, and Hamas, with of this supposedly involving “funding terrorism.” Oh. Well, I do not like the Assad regime that has killed huge numbers of people trying to overthrow it, but the majority of those have been allies of the Sunni terrorist groups related to al Qaeda. Yes. You know, the group that attacked the US on 9/11/01, killing about as many people as died in the Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year, an A+ performance of this administration on hurricane performance. And while Hezbollah did engage in terrorist activities in the early-to-mid-90s, none since then. They are basically the main part of the government of Lebanon. Hamas is certainly attacking Israel, but then Israel is attacking them back. It is way long past that the claim that Iran is the “world’s leading supporter of international terrorism” was remotely close to being true.
Rogin’s pathetically disgusting defense of this garbsae continues quoting Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies who declared, “Mnuchin’s job as treasury secretary is to protect that integrity of the global financial system, and he’s not protecting this integrity if he is allowing these Iranian banks to stay on.” And this is where things go off the rails as Rogin (and Dubowitz) admit that “Wall Street doesn’t like Washington policymakers disrupting their institutions, and there could be economic blowback.”
Wow! Shame on those evil Wall Streeters threatening “economic blowback” against Washington policymakers engaging in violating international agreements!
OK, so what is really going on here. Well, a major issue is whether even if Trump gets this memo to sign out of slow-moving Treasury he can actually enforce his illegal demand that Iranian banks be forbidden to use the SWIFT system. That system is located in Brussels and is ultimately subject to Belgian law, not US presidential commands. Germany and the rest of the EU nations totally oppose Trump’s initiative on this and claim he does not have authority to demand this of SWIFT, When Obama made his demand for SWIFT cutting off the Iranian banks back in 2012, he had the support of the full EU and certainly the Belgian government, as well as such nations as Russia and China. Now none of these support Trump in this egregious and illegal action, with not just Wall Street but pretty much most of the rest of the world aside from a handful of powers, and certainly every other nation in an authoritative position regarding the crucial SWIFT system of international bank clearances.
All this becomes more important as Europe and China have not been delivering for Iran against Trump’s illegal demands. Their governments have all been talking a good story, denouncing Trump for his outrageous actions, but on the ground they have not been delivering for Iran. European companies have been fleeing Iran afraid of US sanctions. And I have seen reports that in the face of the impending Us sanctions on oil shipments to kick in on Nov. 1, India has reduced iranian oil imports by nearly half, supposedly part of trying to be friendly with the US, and even China has cut them back by nearly a third, not wanting to annoy Trump more in the midst of the trade war.
So here we have all these nations claiming to support Iran against the US, with Iran unequivocally obeying the requirements of the JCPOA agreement, which the UN Security Council signed off on. Trump and the US have no grounds foe any of this; it is all totally internationally illegal, as well as monumentally stupid, arguably the worst action on foreign policy of this horrendous presidency.
Up until now we have seen no serious feedback from Trump’s illegal awfulness. Despite their failure so far to deliver any serious goods for the Iranians against Trump, and with many of their big companies kowtowing to his demands, such as France’s Total, Itran has so far continued to adhere to the deal. But it is a close call. If nobody supports them economically rather than merely rhetorically, the super hardliners in Iran might come to power and restart all the uranium centrifuge enrichment programs they stopped as part of the agreement. Really.
As it is, it may well turn out to be that the bottom line on all this will be this matter of the SWIFT system, which really is a big deal. If when finally Mnuchin (or his successor) sends the bloody memo to Trump and he signs it, the EU fails to block his demands on the SWIFT system based in Belgium regarding the Iranian banks, we may well see Iran say to heck with it, the deal is over and we shall go back to our serious uranium enrichment and maybe reopening our closed plutonium plant. Hey, when W. Bush canned the old Korean deal, it was the North Korean’s plutonium plant that made their first bombs. But, hey, Trump is doing this for somebody or other’s security!
In the meantime, go Mnuchin! Save the Iranian banks!