• 2020-05-14

    On May 14, 2020, the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury, and the U.S. Coast Guard, issued an advisory​​ to provide those engaged or involved in trade in the maritime industry and energy and metals sectors with further information and tools to counter current and emerging trends related to illicit shipping and sanctions evasion.  

  • 2020-05-07

    Iran provides Iraq with around 1,200 megawatts of electricity per day, and 40 million cubic meters of gas. On Dec. 9, Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said his country had signed a three-year cooperation agreement with Iraq for extending Iranian energy exports. On Nov. 9, Ardakanian had announced that the power grids of Iran and Syria were to be connected through Iraq, as Tehran and Damascus signed a preliminary agreement in this regard. From an Iranian perspective, exporting electricity to surrounding countries, including Turkey, is part of Tehran's efforts to widen its financial resources; however, from US President Donald Trump’s point of view, this is an attempt to get around the sanctions imposed by Washington under the “maximum pressure” strategy that aims at drying up all sources of funds that might reach Iran. 

  • 2020-05-06

    Just a few days after Iran announced its first deaths from COVID-19 in February, the Trump administration’s Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hook was asked during a briefing for an update on the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA), a payments channel intended to ease the sale of medicine and medical devices by Swiss companies to Iran. Responding to the question, Hook acknowledged that no further transactions had been processed since a pilot transaction involving a $2.55 million sale of medication a month earlier, but insisted that there were “more transactions coming.”Two months later, over 6,000 Iranians have lost their lives to COVID-19, and the Swiss channel has yet to process any further transactions. Since the Trump administration reimposed secondary sanctions on Iran in November 2018, the Swiss government has worked to establish a dedicated banking channel to ease the export of medical supplies to Iran. Switzerland is the second largest supplier of medicine to Iran after the European Union. While technically exempt from sanctions, the sale of medical supplies has been made more difficult as banks refuse to process Iran-related transactions. In a recent client note, former Director of the US Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) John Smith detailed how “the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign has likely dissuaded many companies from exporting medicine and medical devices to Iran that they otherwise could.” 

  • 2020-04-22

    Whatever pain COVID-19 inflicts, it offers a golden opportunity for Washington lobbyists committed to tough sanctions against Iran. ‘Regime change’ or ‘regime collapse’, they say, is now within grasp if only the United States stands firm. United States sanctions have not just spawned a proliferating industry profiting lawyers, bureaucrats and “expert” consultants. They have created an opaque maze around which “bullet points” bounce from lobby groups and “think tanks” to the media to government, becoming “facts” through repetition and circular sourcing. Leading the Iran intervention lobby is the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). Its CEO Mark Dubowitz is tireless on Twitter and in the media. As the pandemic helps blur any line between opinion and facts, FDD can more easily market its paid advocates as “experts” purportedly moved solely by evidence. On April 5, FDD published a “research memo” entitled “Should the United States Lift Sanctions on Iran to Address Its Coronavirus Outbreak?” The answer, unsurprisingly, was no. 

  • 2020-04-18

    As a post-JCPOA implication, Iran has followed 4 transit initiatives in Central Asia including “Persian Railway Corridor”, “East Caspian Railway”, so-called “Ashgabat Agreement” and “Iran-Kazakhstan-China Corridor” more seriously.

  • 2020-04-16

    The Trump administration’s sanctions have made it impossible for Iranian medical personnel to keep themselves safe amid the pandemic. [...] In March, Mohammad Sharifi Moghaddam, the head of a leading nurses’ union in Iran, told a local news organization that the death toll for nurses in Iran during the coronavirus pandemic has been “unnatural” compared with other countries that have been hit hard by the virus, blaming government mismanagement, staff shortages, and lack of protective equipment. While there is little question that the Iranian government’s response to the coronavirus has been a failure, U.S. sanctions have made the situation worse by disrupting other avenues for humanitarian aid—and the likely result is many more Iranian nurses and health care workers being made into martyrs.

  • 2020-04-14

    To be sure, Tehran has had much difficulty accessing its foreign exchange reserves for humanitarian trade because of U.S. restrictions on transactions with the Central Bank of Iran. Yet an IMF loan would have exactly zero impact on that issue. What does help on that front is Treasury’s quiet policy change in March to allow foreign transactions with the Central Bank for the purpose of countering coronavirus. Exporters are already leaping at this opportunity in South Korea, where Iran holds many billions of dollars in reserves; the policy change applies to other key reserve locations as well. Thus, anyone concerned about getting medical supplies to Iran should be focusing on these newly accessible reserves rather than IMF loans. In short, the IMF loan controversy will have no impact on the country’s ability to purchase humanitarian goods. It is inappropriate for news outlets, EU governments, or anyone else to claim that blocking the loan will impede Iran’s access to such goods. The real obstacle lies in Tehran’s failure to use the many resources it can already access.

  • 2020-04-06

    Today, a bipartisan group of two dozen American and European national security leaders issue a joint statement urging the US government to ease humanitarian trade with Iran in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. “As the world grapples with COVID-19 – the disease caused by the novel coronavirus – we must remember that an outbreak anywhere impacts people everywhere. In turn, reaching across borders to save lives is imperative for our own security and must override political differences among governments” the authors write. The statement, organized by the European Leadership Network and The Iran Project, includes signatures from dignitaries such as former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini; four former NATO Secretaries-General; a range of former US officials spanning five Democratic and Republican presidential administrations, and British, French, German, and other European Prime Ministers, Foreign and Defense Secretaries, Ministers, and Ambassadors. 

  • 2020-04-06

    Even before COVID-19, Iran’s health system was feeling the effect of the sanctions.3 Their impact is now severe because they restrict the government’s ability to raise funds or to import essential goods. Of the ten countries with the highest number of recorded cases of COVID-19 to date, Iran is the poorest.2 In 2019, Iran had the lowest rate of economic growth (–9·5%) and highest rate of inflation (35·7%) recorded in the country for the past 20 years. This financial situation makes the funding of adequate prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19 impossible, and the country cannot take the same measures adopted in other countries to strengthen responses, such as paying the full cost of obtaining treatment.3 Essential medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from sanctions, but their availability is restricted by the effect of sanctions on the commercial sector, reducing manufacturing and trade capacity, and on foreign exchange. Consequently, although approximately 184 000 hospital and primary health-care staff are working to fight COVID-19, their efforts are thwarted by shortages of test kits, protective equipment, and ventilators. 

  • 2020-04-06

    Since Iran emerged as the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the Middle East, its leaders have called on the U.S. to suspend economic sanctions so that they can more effectively fight and contain the pathogen. The U.S. has instead forged ahead with its strategy and sees the pandemic as an opportunity to further weaken and destabilize the country. The U.S. State Department says that humanitarian goods, including medicine and medical supplies, are exempt and not subject to any trade restrictions. Yet it has imposed sanctions on 18 Iranian banks, including lenders that were still able to carry out trade in foods and medicines.