International economic pressure on Iran to change its course and comply with its international nuclear obligations continues to grow.
A company based in Brussels, known as SWIFT –- the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication – has blocked Iranian banks that are subject to European Union sanctions from using its service. The service SWIFT provides is a secure private network for financial institutions to send payment messages to one another, allowing money to be moved around the world. SWIFT sends nearly 20 million such messages a day. More than 10,000 financial institutions in 210 countries use the service.
Lazaro Campos, SWIFT’S chief executive, said the move to disconnect the Iranian banks from the network “is an extraordinary and unprecedented step for SWIFT. It is a direct result of international and multilateral action to intensify financial sanctions against Iran.”
There are some 30 Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran, affected by the SWIFT cutoff -- meaning that Iran will have financial difficulty with its imports and exports, including exports involving oil.
David Cohen, U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, welcomed the move by SWIFT. He said in a statement that it “reflects the growing international consensus that substantially increased pressure is needed to convince the Iranian regime to address the international community’s concerns about its illicit nuclear activities. Taken in the context of increasingly powerful sanctions applied by the United States, the EU, and many others in the international community, [SWIFT’s] action reinforces the isolation of designated Iranian banks from the international financial sector.”
President Barack Obama has urged Iran to resolve the concerns about its nuclear activities diplomatically. “If the Iranian government pursues a responsible path,” said Mr. Obama. “it will be welcomed once more among the community of nations, and the Iranian people will have greater opportunities to prosper.”