Iran Feels Pinch as Major Banks Curtail Business

[Washington Post] Robin Wright - More than 40 major international banks and financial institutions have either cut off or cut back business with the Iranian government or private sector as a result of a quiet campaign launched by the U.S. last September, according to Treasury and State Department officials. The financial squeeze has seriously crimped Tehran's ability to finance petroleum industry projects. It has also limited Iran's use of the international financial system to help fund allies and extremist militias in the Middle East. The new campaign particularly targets financial transactions involving the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is now a major economic force whose commanders have been awarded government contracts such as airport management and construction of the Tehran subway. Iranian importers are particularly feeling the pinch, with many having to pay for commodities in advance when a year ago they could rely on a revolving line of credit, said Patrick Clawson, a former World Bank official now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The scope of Iran's vulnerability has been a surprise to U.S. officials, he added. The financial institutions cutting back business ties are mainly in Europe and Asia. UBS last year said it was cutting off all dealings with Iran. London-based HSBC and Standard Chartered as well as Commerzbank of Germany have indicated they are limiting their exposure to Iranian business, said Stuart Levey, Treasury's Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

2007-03-26 01:00:00

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