Bush Resorts To Blackmail
To Pressure Iran - Report

The United States is threatening foreign banks with fines and lost businesses if they continue their operations in Iran in a bid to squeeze the Iranian regime, USATODAY reported.
Top Treasury and State Department officials have stepped up efforts to limit bank's operations in Iran in the past six months, imposing banking laws and traveling to Europe and the Middle East to stress the risks associated with dealing with the Iranians.
U.S. officials have also demanded European countries to take similar measures.
"There's quite an effort being made, by several governments, not just the U.S. government, to convince heads of companies," says Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Moreover, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, a group of 30 leading countries with market economies, downgraded Iran as a credit risk, raising insurance premiums on Iranian export credits.
Stuart Levey, undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, told a Senate committee in April that banks abandoning Iran could have "tremendous impact."
"We are seeing banks and other institutions reassessing their ties to Iran. They are asking themselves if they really want to be handling business for entities owned by a government engaged in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and support for terrorism," he added.
The U.S. campaign is aimed at shattering the Iranian economy due to Tehran's refusal to abandon its uranium enrichment program.
Washington accuses Iran of covertly seeking atomic weapons, but the Islamic Republic insists that it has the right to work on a peaceful nuclear program as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The Iranian nuclear dispute has already shaken markets and U.S. officials say the climate of anxiety over the prospect of UN sanctions, or even military action, is having an effect.
"I think there is a real and growing sense that there's a risk associated with doing business with Iran, with lending Iran more money or providing it with a line of credit," said Robert Joseph, under secretary of state for arms control and international security.
Washington has maintained a near-total financial embargo on Tehran since 1995. Banks with U.S. operations - governed by U.S. law - are allowed to process payments for trade between Iran and third countries. But they must prove that the goods being traded are not banned.
"The U.S. is now implementing the 1995 law a lot more and putting pressure on international banks," says Siamak Namazi, a Tehran-based consultant.
* Embargo
Correspondents say the U.S. campaign seems to be working. More than four European banks - UBS, Credit Suisse, ABN AMRO and HSBC - decided to end their operations in Iran.
Bank officials said that, in some cases, they were fined by U.S. authorities for currency violations on transactions involving Tehran. Most large European banks have branches or bureaus in the United States, which are subject to U.S. laws.
UBS, which was fined by U.S. regulators in 2004 with $100 million for currency violations involving Iran, said that it would no longer do direct business with any individual, business or bank in Iran or finance exports or imports for any of its corporate clients in Iran.
Sierk Nawijn, a spokesman for ABN AMRO, which was fined in December with $80 million for failure to comply with U.S. sanctions on Iran, also announced that the bank has "no representation in Iran".
Georg Söntgerath, a spokesman for Credit Suisse, said, "As of January, we have said that we will not enter into any new business relations with corporate clients in Iran." He didn't directly mention the role U.S. pressure played in the bank's decision, which also applied to Syria and some other countries. He only said that the decision came after an assessment of an "increased economic risk for our bank and our clients."
Experts say banks with modest Iranian business fear U.S. sanctions, and thus require less persuasion from the Americans. However, some banks may be reluctant to meet U.S. demands and give up the lucrative business of financing trade deals with Iran.
Iran's largest trading partners are Japan, China, Italy, Germany and France, all of which have firms that use banks to finance letters of credit to export machinery, commodities and other goods to Iran
The U.S. financial pressure will eventually make small-business owners in Iran unable to obtain bank letters of credit for their international trading.
But it's not clear whether the oil-rich Iranian economy can be badly hurt this way. Earlier U.S. sanctions have been imperfect. For example, American goods reach Iran through third countries such as Dubai.
"I don't see the pullout of a few European banks doing a tremendous amount of damage," said Karim Sadjadpour, an analyst of Iran at the International Crisis Group, an advocacy organization. "They're making $300 million a day from oil revenues, and they can weather the storm."




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