Earlier in 2012, a few organisations like the American Foreign Policy Council and the United Against Nuclear Iran group lobbied to the US and Europe to have Iran sanctioned for their “illicit activities” in the wake of the country’s inroad in nuclear technologies.
MintMe interviewed Nathan Carleton, Communications Director for UANI, and asked him a few questions about the multilateral boycotting effort.
Question: What is the UANI and what is your role in the organization?
United Against Nuclear Iran is a bipartisan foreign policy advocacy group, based in New York City. We were founded in 2008 by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, former CIA Director James Woolsey, Middle East Expert Dennis Ross, and Ambassador Mark Wallace. Ambassador Wallace serves as UANI’s President. We believe that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons must be stopped, and we regularly push for tougher sanctions against Iran and pressure companies to pull out of Iran.
Q: Imposing embargos on totalitarian regimes like North Korea or Cuba has a been a last resort of the international community historically. Do you think that your campaign would trigger the right conditions for an eventual embargo of the Iranian regime?
The goal of all our campaigns is to pressure Iran into changing course. The regime has been pursuing nuclear weapons, against the will of the international community, and that must be stopped. The Iranian regime is now becoming more and more isolated from the international community. We hope that the regime is seeing that it is in its interest to stop pursuing nuclear weapons and stop funding terrorists around the world, and act accordingly. There is much evidence to suggest that Iran does not want to turn out as isolated as North Korea and Cuba are—it wants access to world markets and to be a player in international affairs. Therefore there is hope that more and more isolation could convince Iran to change course.
Q: Arguably, the disconnection of all Iranian finance institutions from the SWIFT would have a massive impact on their international trade. Has this type of boycott via the SWIFT network been tried before against totalitarian regimes? If it has, what was its effect on those regimes and their economies? [SWIFT or BIC codes are essential to routing internations transactions]
I am not aware of any such efforts. Iran wants to have access to the world’s markets—that is how it funds its nuclear program and transfers money to terrorists. By cutting Iran off, SWIFT can put itself in compliance with U.S. and EU sanctions, and isolate the regime from the international financial system.
Q: How has the finance community reacted so far to the campaign?
The reaction has been rapid. We launched this campaign on January 30, with a detailed explanation of how SWIFT was violating U.S. and EU law—as well as its own bylaws—by providing Iranian banks and institutions with access to the SWIFT system. SWIFT initially defended its work, but within days, the U.S. Senate had drafted an amendment to sanction SWIFT, and soon thereafter SWIFT announced plans to cut Iran off. We personally wrote to international banking regulatory officials and SWIFT’s Board of Directors, demanding action on their part, and that helped move SWIFT to action.
Q: Iran is publicly building ties with other governments like Chavez’s Venezuela and even China. Do you anticipate that these regimes would pull their weight in the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication to veto any blocking of the Iranian international routing?
There is a wide international consensus that Iran needs to abandon its nuclear pursuits and change course. The EU is in the process of sanctioning the regime, and is committed to enforcing its sanctions with respect to SWIFT. As a network located in an EU nation and with another headquarters in America, SWIFT has no choice but to eliminate Iran’s access to the world’s financial system.
Q: SWIFT is an independent cooperative based in Brussels. If SWIFT were an institution dependent on higher instances like the United Nations or the International Monetary Fund, do you think that it would be more effective against Iran?
If SWIFT follows through on its pledge and severs its ties with Iranian banks and institutions, the regime will greatly suffer. It will be severely limited in its efforts at international commerce, and isolated from the rest of the world like never before.
This is all, Mr. Carleton, thank you for your time today. For all our readers, please stay tuned to this blog for more news about Economy, Finance and Banking.