Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed on Monday to defy United States sanctions on the country’s petroleum sector, even as the conservative Guardian Council went further – rejecting a bill meant to relieve US pressure.
Rouhani said Iran would “proudly bypass” the US sanctions in a televised speech on state TV as the 180-day deadline passed.
Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the lieutenant commander of the Revolutionary Guards, pointed to eight sanctions waivers granted to Turkey and other jurisdictions as proof of Washington’s failure to fully implement its goals.
But while Rouhani’s government is working to salvage the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran nuclear deal, Iranian hardliners appear to be digging in for resistance.
Iran’s Guardian Council on Sunday rejected an anti-terror financing bill that Rouhani had lobbied strongly for, sending it back to parliament.
The bill was meant to pave the way for Iran to accede to the United Nations’ Terrorism Financing Convention, thus removing a major point of US criticism and giving European allies more leeway to develop a financial mechanism aimed at contravening the sanctions.
As it is, the nuclear deal signatories have had 180 days warning of the US sanctions, and they have yet to come up with a viable workaround. Meanwhile, major European companies like Total have pulled out of the Islamic Republic, while sticking with rival Saudi Arabia.
The US Secretary of Treasury warned in recent days that SWIFT, the ubiquitous global service used for financial transaction communications, will not be spared if it continues to cooperate with blacklisted Iranian banks.
“We have advised SWIFT that it must disconnect any Iranian financial institutions that we designate as soon as technologically feasible to avoid sanctions exposure,” Steve Mnuchin told reporters.
An expanded US blacklist, announced in October, took some in Iran by surprise as it targeted banks exempt from earlier rounds of sanctions.
The CEO of Parsian Bank called the Treasury designation of his private institution a “mistake” as it handles the bulk of the nation’s transactions related to importing food, medicine and other humanitarian items.
The Treasury designation against Parsian Bank was based on it providing financial services to the Andisheh Mehvaran Investment Company, which it found was “owned or controlled” by Iran’s Zinc Mines Development Company, which it said could eventually be linked back to Iran’s Basij paramilitary force.
“Parsian was sanctioned because one company, Andisheh Mevaran, bought and sold less than 0.3% of the total shares of the bank in the stock market,” the CEO told Bourse & Bazaar.
Such a non-influential shareholder, he said, would normally fall well below the Treasury’s standard bar of identifying sanctioned entities exerting control of companies.
On Twitter, President Trump published a photo of himself walking resolutely with the caption: “Sanctions are coming,” an allusion to Game of Thrones.