SWIFT Announces Financial Messaging Service Will Disconnect Some Iranian Banks this Weekend

SWIFT, the financial messaging service that moves money around the global banking system, will disconnect some Iranian banks this weekend, the institution’s Chief Executive Gottfried Leibbrandt said on Friday, The New York Times reported.

“This weekend we are going to disconnect a certain number of Iranian banks. It’s really regrettable, we’re not being allowed to be neutral,” Leibbrandt told a Franco-German business conference in Paris. He added that the list of banks would be published this weekend, after the financial institutions affected by the decision had been notified.

The United States government told SWIFT that it expects the institution to comply with the sanctions regime and that it could face them itself if it fails to do so. The Trump administration on Monday reimposed all sanctions against Iran that had been lifted as part of the 2015 nuclear agreement.

SWIFT said earlier this week that it would suspend the access of some Iranian banks “in the interest of the stability and integrity of the global financial system.” Leibbrandt declined to confirm whether the Central Bank of Iran was on the banned list.

However, United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday that SWIFT would be cutting off several Iranian financial institutions, including the central bank. In May, The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the Central Bank of Iran and its head for their support of terrorist groups, including Hezbollah.

“I understand that SWIFT will be discontinuing service to the Central Bank of Iran and designated Iranian financial institutions,” Mnuchin said in a tweet. “SWIFT is making the right decision to protect the integrity of the international financial system.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told BBC Persian on Wednesday that Iran’s “leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat. They have to make a decision that they want to use their wealth to import medicine, and not use their wealth to fund destabilizing activities in the region.”

Reuters reported earlier this week that ordinary Iranians on social media are increasingly expressing their frustration with the nation’s privileged political class, as new sanctions take hold.

[Photo: Ivar Husevåg Døskeland / Flickr]