Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

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Iran sanctions relief can fund “bad behavior”

August 7, 2015

Obama administration official Susan Rice says that we should expect that some assets unfrozen in the Iranian nuclear deal will fund Iran’s “bad behavior.”  This behavior includes bomb attacks by Hezbollah against Israel.

This acknowledgment is an illustration that it’s okay for the federal government to allow piles of money to flow to Iran.  But if you as a private citizen sent just enough money to Iran to buy a Persian rug or a can of pistachio nuts, you could be prosecuted or fined.

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EU to delist IRGC subsidiary in Iran deal

July 28, 2015

One of several poison pills in the pages of the nuclear agreement with Iran is an offer to lift sanctions on an Iranian construction company controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).  The maneuver would enrich the IRGC front company and strengthen the IRGC’s political and economic stranglehold over public life in Iran.  Money made by the construction company will also be funneled into terrorism by the IRGC.  From Ali Alfoneh of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (h/t @skinroller):

EU Delisting of IRGC Construction Giant Will Boost Terror Financing

Ali Alfoneh
27th July 2015 – FDD Policy Brief

The Iran nuclear deal signed July 14 stipulates that eight years after its implementation, the European Union will delist a construction conglomerate owned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In so doing, the EU will inject a massive cash flow into one of the IRGC’s other primary industries: terrorism.

Khatam al-Anbia (literally, “Seal of the Prophets”) was born as an IRGC engineering corps during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), building trenches and fortifications. Since then, it has developed into the largest contracting company in Iran – potentially even the country’s largest firm outright – benefitting from government contracts on a no-bid basis.  Its projects now include developing Iran’s massive South Pars gas field, building a pipeline to Pakistan, and a Tehran metro line, to name a few.

In 2010, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned the conglomerate, citing declassified intelligence that the profits from its activities “support the full range of the IRGC’s illicit activities, including WMD proliferation and support for terrorism.”

The demise of Hassan Shateri, the head of Khatam al-Anbia’s Lebanon branch, is a case in point. On February 12, 2013, Shateri was killed while accompanying an arms convoy en route from Syria to Lebanon – allegedly in an airstrike by Israeli jets. Details soon emerged that he was heading efforts to replenish Hezbollah’s missile arsenal and its launch sites along the Israeli border. Shateri, reports revealed, was actually a commander of the Quds Force, the IRGC external arm responsible for “exporting the revolution” worldwide…

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Financial system compromised by Iran deal

July 20, 2015

The deal with Iran doesn’t just give a murderous regime $100 billion in sanctions relief.  It gives them ongoing access to the international financial system.  It will make their funding of Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps so much easier.  Expert analysis from Mark Dubowitz and Jonathan Schanzer writing in Foreign Policy last week:

It Just Got Easier for Iran to Fund Terrorism

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, did not enter into Tuesday’s historic deal with six world powers to reset relations with the West. It was the promise of more than $100 billion in sanctions relief, rather, that greased the wheels of the recently completed diplomacy in Vienna. And though the windfall of cash will certainly strengthen its position, the real prize for Iran was regaining access to a little-known, but ubiquitous banking system that has been off-limits to the country since March 2012.

SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, is the electronic bloodstream of the global financial system. It is a member-owned cooperative comprising the most powerful financial institutions in the world, which allows more than 10,800 financial companies worldwide to communicate securely. It’s hard to find a bank that doesn’t use SWIFT to communicate with other banks — unless, of course, you’ve lived in Iran for the past few years.

SWIFT disconnected 15 Iranian banks from its system in 2012 after coming under pressure from both the United States and the European Union at the height of the effort to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It was a major blow to Tehran. Sure, it was how Iran sold oil, but it was also how Iranian banks moved money. According to SWIFT’s annual review, Iranian financial institutions used SWIFT more than 2 million times in 2010. These transactions, according to the Wall Street Journal, amounted to $35 billion in trade with Europe alone.

SWIFT is now poised to let those 15 banned Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran, back in. But the move is controversial, to put it mildly. The system is subject to EU laws and international banking standards, which are unambiguous about terrorism finance. Deal or no deal, Iran remains a threat because of its past financing of terrorist networks. As recently as this past June, the Financial Action Task Force, a global anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism finance standards body, warned that Iran’s “failure to address the risk of terrorist financing” poses a “serious threat … to the integrity of the international financial system.”

Even U.S. President Barack Obama at his press conference this week acknowledged Iran’s “support for terrorism” and “its use of proxies to destabilize parts of the Middle East.” With Iran re-connected to SWIFT, it will be poised to more easily move funds to terrorists’ coffers, foment conflict around the region, and possibly even procure equipment for a clandestine weapons program, should it choose to violate the nuclear deal.

“De-SWIFTing” Iran did not happen without controversy. But under congressional pressure, Obama administration and EU officials eventually agreed to take the step in mid-2012. Around the same time, the White House began its back channel nuclear negotiations with Iran. This was no coincidence: Cut off from the formal financial sector, Iran was desperate for a way back in. The Obama administration saw this as an opportunity. Secret talks led to public negotiations in October 2013 and the announcement of an interim agreement one month later.

So long as the Iranians continued to engage in dialogue, the P5+1 world powers agreed to provide sanctions relief. Direct sanctions relief under the Joint Plan of Action, the interim deal signed in November 2013, yielded the Iranian regime a total of $11.9 billion from frozen oil revenues, allowing the country to replenish its dwindling foreign exchange reserves. This contributed to a modest economic recovery in 2014 and 2015, but the pressure from sanctions remained, and Iran’s economy remained stymied.

“Without SWIFT, there was nowhere to spend [the sanctions relief],” one U.S. government official told us in April. “The Iranians have been complaining to us throughout the JPOA process that sanctions relief means little without the ability to bank.”

It is no coincidence, then, that the deal explicitly calls for the banks that were originally banned from SWIFT to be allowed back into the system. SWIFT issued a release on Tuesday afternoon in response to the announcement, stating that it “is aware of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the potential sanctions relief this may entail.”

For the time being, however, the financial messaging service noted that “all the current EU sanctions remain in place…. Any decision to lift sanctions on countries or individual entities rests solely with the competent government bodies and applicable legislators.”

In plain English, SWIFT is putting the onus on the EU to assume the burden of the decision of whether Iran will be reintegrated into its system. So, upon “Implementation Day” — when the International Atomic Energy Agency verifies that Iran has fulfilled the implementation of specified nuclear measures — the EU will be obliged to order SWIFT to readmit Iran’s banks.

While Iran’s readmission to SWIFT is underway, Iranian banks will also get a boost from a provision in the agreement that calls for the United States to delist the Central Bank of Iran. This is no small matter. In 2011, invoking Section 311 of the Patriot Act, the U.S. Treasury took the extraordinary step of designating the entire “Islamic Republic of Iran [as] a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern.” The Treasury cited Iran’s “support for terrorism,” “pursuit of weapons of mass destruction,” and “deceptive financial practices” as reasons for the action. It specifically targeted Iran’s Central Bank and made it clear that the entire country’s financial system posed “illicit finance risks for the global financial system”…

…To make matters worse, the agreement just reached in Vienna grants more than $100 billion in cash to Iran, which could flow to the coffers of terrorist groups and rogue actors like Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Houthis, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus. At the president’s press conference on Wednesday, Obama dismissed this fear, claiming the money would not be a “game-changer” for Iran. It’s hard to understand his logic: This infusion of cash will relieve budgetary constraints for a country already spending at least $6 billion annually to support Assad. For a country with only $20 billion in fully accessible foreign exchange reserves prior to November 2013, this is hugely significant.More importantly, the relaxed banking standards will grant the Iranian regime the ability to move its money anywhere in the world. With EU sanctions also set to be lifted on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, major IRGC companies and banks, and the Quds Force, the IRGC’s extraterritorial terrorist arm, Europe will become an economic free zone for Iran’s terrorist activity…

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Stashes and sanctions: suggested news reading

May 28, 2015
  • ISIS financier killed in raid; documents seized… more>>
  • Danish jihadists receive 400,000 crowns in welfare benefits, and counting… more>>
  • Iraq faced sanctions for years thanks to Saddam. Now it faces sanctions again thanks to an Iraqi airline helping Iran evade its sanctions… more>>
  • Spain busts up a Chinese money laundering operation that helps illustrate how “smurfing” works… more>>
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Terror takers: recommended news reading

May 21, 2015
  • Money freed up during Iran talks appears to be rebuilding Hamas’s tunnelsmore>>
  • The black market created by extensive regulation of the tobacco industry is enriching terroristsmore>>
  • ISIS seeks $23 million ransom for captives… more>>
  • Alibaba poses a risk for exporting sensitive military technology to China… more>>
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Sordid money: recommended news reading

May 7, 2015
  • National security adviser:  millions of dollars are coming from the Arab Gulf to Canada to promote a “jihadist interpretation of the Qur’an”… more>>
  • Where is Iran getting U.S. currency that it sends to Hamas?  From Baghdad and the Kurdish region of Iraq… more>>
  • T. Boone Pickens:  There’s no need to negotiate with Iranian liars because “we do not need Mid-East oil” any longer.  The U.S. has plenty energy resources of its own… more>>
  • Former Guantanamo Bay detainees are seeking a housing allowance from the United States.  You see, their four-bedroom house in Montevideo isn’t spacious enough… more>>
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Iran pays $2m more to Gaza martyrs’ families

May 5, 2015

Al-Ansar Charity Association, a financial intermediary between Iran and the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, has announced through social media that it will distribute $2 million to the families of shahids (martyrs for Islam) who died while fighting Israel from 2000 to 2014. This money is over and above the $900,000 Al-Ansar promised in January to the families of terrorists who died fighting Israel during the latter half of 2014.

Al-Ansar’s background and their announcement were uncovered by this report from The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center last week (with thanks to @skinroller and @El_Grillo1):

  1. The Al-Ansar charity association operates in the Gaza Strip and is affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). It was founded during the second intifada (2001) and serves the Iranians as a pipeline for funds to finance terrorism in the Gaza Strip and as a way to increase Iran’s influence over the Gazan population. Al-Ansar supports the families of terrorists who were killed (“shaheeds”), families whose houses were destroyed, and families of terrorist operatives imprisoned in Israel. In the past, it also supported the families of shaheeds in Judea and Samaria, with the authorization and sponsorship of Mahmoud Abbas. It is uncertain if it continues to do so today, and if it does, how the funds are delivered (See Appendices A and B).
  2. The PIJ, the second most important Palestinian terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, is Iran’s preferred Palestinian terrorist organization. Iran supports the PIJ both financially and militarily (providing weapons, training, technological knowledge, etc.). Iran transfers large sums of money, up to several mission dollars a year, to the Al-Ansar charity association through the Palestinian branch of the Iranian Martyrs Foundation (established in Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini to aid and support the families of Iranians killed in the Iran-Iraq War). The Iranian Martyrs Foundation has two branches in Lebanon, a Lebanese branch that supports Hezbollah and a Palestinian branch that supports Hamas and the PIJ (See Appendix B for information about the Iranian Martyr’s Foundation and its Palestinian branch). The funds for the Palestinians are probably transferred from Lebanon to the Gaza Strip by bank transfer but it is not clear which banks are involved.
  3. Since the days of the second intifada, the radical Islamist “charitable societies” operating in the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria have served as pipelines for Iran to transfer funds to the Palestinian terrorist organizations. The money finances the terrorist organizations’ social network (mosques, educational institutions, support for the families of shaheeds), especially those of Hamas and the PIJ. Past experience has shown that the funds earmarked for the social network can easily be diverted to the military-terrorist wings of the various terrorist organizations. Thus the Iranian Islamic regime provided religious legitimacy for the money transferred to support Palestinian terrorism (according to the Ayatollah Khomeini, Muslim charity funds could be given to support the Palestinians).
  4. Al-Ansar, which receives funds from the Iranian Martyrs Foundation, was outlawed in Israel in 2003. It is headed by a PIJ activist named Nafez Othman Abd al-Rahman al-A’raj (Abu Suheib). His brother Omar al-A’raj was a senior PIJ military-terrorist operative, killed in 1996 during a Palestinian Authority (PA) attempt to detain him in the Gaza Strip. (Omar al-A’raj founded the PIJ’s military-terrorist network and was in charge of manufacturing IEDs for a series of deadly attacks carried out in Israel). In 2007 the Iranian Martyrs Foundation and its branches in Lebanon were designated as sponsors of terrorism by the United States Department of the Treasury because they provided Hezbollah, Hamas and the PIJ with financial support (See below).
  5. On April 12, 2015, the Al-Ansar charity association in the Gaza Strip announced that $2 million would be distributed among 5,000 families of Gazan shaheeds who had died between the beginning of the second intifada (2000) and June 31, 2014, that is, before the outbreak of Operation Protective Edge (Alansar.ps, April 12, 2015). On April 5, 2015, Al-Ansar said in a statement that the financial support was funded by the Palestinian branch of the Iranian Martyrs Foundation (Facebook page of Al-Ansar, April 5, 2015).
  6. On January 18, 2015, Al-Ansar in the Gaza Strip posted a notice on its Facebook page to Gazans whose family members had been killed in Operation Protective Edge and who had not yet registered with the society. They were requested to go to the Al-Ansar offices with a death certificate, a picture of the deceased, medical reports, and similar relevant documents, so that the transfer of funds could be arranged (Facebook page of Al-Ansar, February 11, 2005). In ITIC assessment, based on an average payment of $400 per family, the Iranian Martyrs Foundation can be expected to transfer an additional $900,000 for the families of Gazans killed in Operation Protective Edge (for approximately 2,200 families) once registration and bureaucratic procedures have been completed. Payment will mainly be made through branches of the post office in the Gaza Strip.
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