February 17, 2012 | Press Release

FDD Welcomes SWIFT’s Commitment to Expel Iranian Banks, Encourages Follow Through


Washington, DC (FDD, February 17, 2012) – SWIFT, a top clearinghouse for international financial transactions, announced today that it is ready to expel Iranian banks in response to pending European Union and U.S. sanctions impacting financial communication service providers.

In a statement emailed to Reuters, the Brussels-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Transactions said it “stands ready to act and discontinue its services to sanctioned Iranian financial institutions as soon as it has clarity on EU legislation currently being drafted.”

“If SWIFT makes good on its commitment, Iran would be the first country in history it expelled,” said FDD executive director Mark Dubowitz, who has advised the Obama administration and key congressional offices on SWIFT and other sanctions measures. “If strictly implemented, this could deny Iran’s banks the ability to move billions of dollars in financial transactions, and put immense pressure on Iran’s leaders to reconsider their policies. The international sanctions on the Iranian regime are the last remaining hope of bringing a peaceful end to its unlawful nuclear pursuits, terrorist activities, and human rights abuses.”

19 Iranian banks and 25 Iranian entities reportedly used SWIFT more than 2 million times in 2010. These transactions, the Wall Street Journal noted in a recent editorial, amounted to $35 billion in trade with Europe alone, and they almost certainly violate existing sanctions laws.

FDD applauds the Obama administration for their continuing diplomatic efforts with the European Union and SWIFT to bring this to successful resolution, and Senate Banking Committee chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) and ranking member Richard Shelby (R-AL) for the unanimous adoption of the key sanctions amendment that led to this result. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) initially led the charge for this amendment in the Senate, and after he suffered a stroke, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) carried forward his efforts.

Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Steve Chabot (R-OH) advanced a companion bill in the House of Representatives with even tougher provisions, which required the imposition of sanctions if SWIFT did not comply.

“This is an unprecedented step by the stakeholders of SWIFT. It’s a sign that the global financial community is treating the threat of a nuclear Iran with the utmost seriousness,” says FDD’s vice president for research, Jonathan Schanzer, a former analyst in the terrorism and financial intelligence unit at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. “It’s hard to imagine a more meaningful measure than banning the Iranian regime from the most widely-used secure financial messaging system. This is the lifeblood of the global electronic banking system.”

To discuss the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ work on U.S. and EU sanctions on Iran, or schedule interviews with Mr. Dubowitz, Mr. Schanzer, or any of FDD’s other experts, please contact David Donadio at [email protected].

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies is a non-profit, non-partisan policy institute dedicated exclusively to promoting pluralism, defending democratic values, and fighting the ideologies that drive terrorism. Founded shortly after the attacks of 9/11, FDD combines policy research, democracy and counterterrorism education, strategic communications, and investigative journalism in support of its mission. For more information, please visit www.defenddemocracy.org.


Iran Iran Sanctions