US Congress Hawks Worried Iran Might Preserve SWIFT Access
EghtesadOnline: As President Donald Trump prepares to re-impose a second batch of sanctions on Iran that had been eased under the 2015 nuclear deal, conservative US lawmakers and outside advisers have become worried that the administration may break a promise to exert "maximum pressure" on Iran.
They are angered by suggestions that measures to be announced Nov. 5 won't include a provision cutting Iran off from a key component of the global financial system, Financial Tribune reported.
The self-styled hawks are concerned enough that they have drafted legislation that would require the administration to demand that Iran be suspended from the international bank transfer system known as SWIFT, AP reported.
"The president asked for maximum pressure, not semi-maximum pressure," said Richard Goldberg, a former aide to a Republican senator and senior adviser to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a neo-con group that supports punishing Iran with sanctions. "Maximum pressure includes disconnecting Iranian banks from SWIFT."
Despite Trump's tough stance, the hawks are worried about recent comments from US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin and his staff that suggest Iran will be able to stay connected to SWIFT.
They are also concerned the administration will back down on its stated zero-tolerance policy for Iranian oil purchases by granting waivers to certain countries and companies that do not fully stop buying it.
Iran deal supporters, like the other parties to the agreement, argue that pushing Iran out of SWIFT, the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, will lead to the creation of alternate mechanisms that could supplant it as the leading global institution for financial institutions to send and receive information about banking transactions. They also say expulsion will make it harder for Iran to conduct transactions, such as humanitarian purchases, that will still be allowed after Nov. 5.
The debate underscores the challenges the administration faces as it tries to isolate Iran without the full backing of other world powers that remain supportive of the nuclear deal.
Although the hawks had been pleased by Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal in May and cheered the August re-imposition of an initial set of sanctions, they are now seething that the treasury may opt to use existing safeguards to isolate Iran instead of hitting SWIFT members with sanctions if they don't disconnect Tehran.
Treasury has been coy about its intentions, saying only that Mnuchin and the agency have led "an intense economic pressure campaign against Iran as part of this administration's comprehensive strategy to address the totality of Iran's activity, with much more to come."