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US Congress, Treasury Dept Mull Cutting Iran Off From SWIFT – Reports

After Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) presented his bill claiming US President Donald Trump’s sanctions were too weak, Congress reportedly tried to pass legislation to cut Iran off from international banking systems.

US officials familiar with the talks told the Washington Free Beacon that Congress is in a heated discussion with the US Treasury Department, which seeks to keep the financial lines open. According to the officials, Congress, trying to toughen the sanctions on Iran which will go into effect on November 4, wants to end Iran’s connection to SWIFT, which facilitates Tehran’s major foreign transactions.

READ MORE: Iran: US 'Lying to the World', Unable to Halt Our Oil Exports

While Trump and top administration officials, including National Security Adviser John Bolton, have publicly advocated for a hard stance on Iran, the Treasury Department has reportedly insisted that Iran’s connection to SWIFT remain intact, possibly due to pressure from European allies.

An Iranian (L) and a European flag - Sputnik International
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Cruz earlier this week reportedly presented new legislation to mandate key sanctions on Iran. According to the Free Beacon’s sources, who are familiar with the legislation, the bill aims to introduce additional sanctions that would target SWIFT-related operations, including visas and assets of SWIFT board members that enable Iran to continue using the banking system. The bill would also reportedly expand Trump’s powers to target Iranian banks for alleged financing of terrorists, including sanctions for helping Iran develop a cryptocurrency to evade US sanctions.

The bill was reportedly supported by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). “To end the Iranian terrorist regime's ambitions for nuclear weapons once and for all, the Trump administration must not only restore all sanctions suspended by President Obama's flawed nuclear deal but also impose additional, farther-reaching sanctions that truly maximize pressure against Iran's government,” Rubio told the Free Beacon.

One source familiar with the legislation said that the bill goes beyond what sanctions the Treasury Department is willing to impose, especially since taking action against SWIFT would also mean acting against two major American banks that are part of it, JP Morgan and Citibank.

“The president has made it clear he intends to implement a maximum pressure strategy against the Iranian regime. Disconnecting Iranian banks from the SWIFT network is a crucial element of that approach. If administration officials attempt to create loopholes for the Iranians, then Congress will take action to ensure Iranian banks are cut off from SWIFT.” said one congressional staffer who works on Iran sanctions and is familiar with Cruz’s proposed legislation.

Philippe Bonnecarrere (R),president of France-Iran Friendship Group at the French Senate, Kazem Jalali (C), president of France-Iran Friendship Group at Iran’s Parliament and Delphine O (L), president of France-Iran Friendship Group at the French National Assembly, give a joint press conference in the Iranian capital Tehran on October 21, 2018 - Sputnik International
Europe Wants Iran Connected to SWIFT Payment System Amid Sanctions - French MP
A Treasury Department official told the Free Beacon that the department has taken a harsh stance on Iran, but the Treasury’s apparent unwillingness to definitively sever Iran from SWIFT has reportedly displeased Iran hawks.

”Treasury has made it very clear that we will continue to cut off bad Iranian actors, including designated banks, from accessing the international financial system in a number of different ways,” a Treasury Department official told the Free Beacon, adding that the department is ready to target banks that conduct prohibited transactions with Iranian entities under the sanctions. However, the official said, the administration “will not comment specifically on any future sanctions on SWIFT or other entities.”

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