Squeezing Iran

The Washington Post reports: Iran Feels Pinch As Major Banks Curtail Business.

More than 40 major international banks and financial institutions have either cut off or cut back business with the Iranian government or private sector as a result of a quiet campaign launched by the Treasury and State departments last September, according to Treasury and State officials.

The financial squeeze has seriously crimped Tehran's ability to finance petroleum industry projects and to pay for imports. It has also limited Iran's use of the international financial system to help fund allies and extremist militias in the Middle East, say U.S. officials and economists who track Iran.

The U.S. campaign, developed by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, emerged in part over U.S. frustration with the small incremental steps the U.N. Security Council was willing to take to contain the Islamic republic's nuclear program and support for extremism, U.S. officials say. The council voted Saturday to impose new sanctions on Tehran, including a ban on Iranian arms sales and a freeze on assets of 28 Iranian individuals and institutions.

"All the banks we've talked to are reducing significantly their exposure to Iranian business," said Stuart Levey, Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. "It's been a universal response. They all recognize the risks -- some because of what we've told them and some on their own. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to see the dangers."

What are the dangers? Any project started now could be repudiated by the next government in Iran. Who is scaring the bankers the most? Iran's President. The feller I like to refer to as Ahmanutjob.
Ahmadinejad's rhetoric -- from denying the Holocaust to comparing Iran's stock exchange to gambling -- has helped, experts say. "There is very little foreign investment in Iran not because of sanctions, but because of the atmosphere created by Ahmadinejad's crazy statements," said Jahangir Amuzegar, former Iranian finance minister and executive director of the International Monetary Fund.
In recent news a possible naval blockade due to the capture of 15 Bitish marines by the Iranians could hasten their decline.
The Bush administration has taken several other actions in recent months to contain Iran, including deploying two Navy carrier strike groups near the Persian Gulf, arresting operatives of the Revolutionary Guards' al-Quds Force in Iraq and pressing for two U.N. resolutions to punish Iran for not suspending its uranium enrichment program.
Iran is having problems with its gasoline supply. For another it is not maintaining its oil production infrastructure. Iranian net oil output is declining at better than 10% a year. By no later than 2015 its net oil output will be zero. Since oil accounts for 80% of Iran's export revenues the pinch is already starting to hurt and will only get worse.
In December, Iranian oil minister Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh acknowledged that Tehran was having trouble financing petroleum development projects. "Currently, overseas banks and financiers have decreased their cooperation," he told the oil ministry news agency Shana.
This is a regime on the decline. The question is how fast. In the early days of any blockade the pinch does not seem serious. The longer things go on the more trouble multiplies. Production is cut in industry A due to lack of resources which affects industry B which has not felt the external crimp. This cascades.
Iranian importers are particularly feeling the pinch, with many having to pay for commodities in advance when a year ago they could rely on a revolving line of credit, said Patrick Clawson, a former World Bank official now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The scope of Iran's vulnerability has been a surprise to U.S. officials, he added.

The financial institutions cutting back business ties are mainly in Europe and Asia, U.S. officials say. UBS last year said it was cutting off all dealings with Iran. London-based HSBC (which has 5,000 offices in 79 countries) and Standard Chartered (with 1,400 branches in 50 countries) as well as Commerzbank of Germany have indicated they are limiting their exposure to Iranian business, Levey said.

America has a lock on the international banking system. Only friends get to play.

Let me add the biggest risk factor. What do socialist countries (which Iran is) do when economics gets tough? They nationalize. i.e. they steal the investment. Returns have to be very high to make such risks worth while.

H/T Captain's Quarters where ajacksonian has left a very good comment, as have others.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon on 03.26.07 at 05:25 PM










Comments

My major worry that seems to be a bit overlooked is that the regime in Iran actually has little investment in Iran as a Nation, and more into the entire terror network they have created. The work to get the connections made in Eastern Europe, Russia, Africa, Oceania (broadly speaking), Far East and South America all point to enabling this network to continue onwards once Iran falls. I do not discount Lebanon, but that is a high price, low return affair that has yielded very little and cost a large amount to Iran. More important is their ongoing relationship to Syria, which they may be expecting to fall back upon, but may find Syria suddenly hostile if the money goes away. Syria is an old hand at playing larger Nations for the fool and then not having to do one thing for them once the money stops.

The connections the network has made with other terrorist organizations, like the GIA and FARC, plus with Far Eastern Triads and Eastern European mafias all point to an expectation of a long terrorist campaign that can be self-funded once Iran is unable to supply funds. Their investment in Iran, is minimal, which points to a low expectation and outlook on the people there.

I have this strange feeling that just before everything goes to hell, the regime will just slip away to its affiliated terrorist groups and continue on their longer term mission of bringing their repressive form of Islam across the globe. All the fallback positions are set. An end to the regime in Iran is *not* an end to the threats that it has started up...

ajacksonian   ·  March 27, 2007 4:03 PM

ajacksonian,

I think you are right.

Last year Iran withdrew fronm Europe $30 bn in gold and cash.

Still, fragmenting the opposition and reviving Iran as a modern state has its merits.

This is going to be long and expensive.

M. Simon   ·  March 27, 2007 5:05 PM

Bosnia is trying to shut down the training camps there, but the high level of infiltration into the region since the early '90s also points to problems in Albania and Kosovo. Russia has started to get worried about Chechnya, and the aQ and Iranian camps there... they haven't been able to do anything about those for years, now.

If we are seeing more ties to organized crime via Hezbollah and any more movement into the narcotics and other illegal trades in S. America and Africa, then the long term sustainable base for everything save Lebanon will be done. That is their big resource eater, right now. They want nuclear weapons now to *use* them immediately... but their long-term welcome in Lebanon is even being questioned by the people in southern Lebanon who say that nothing has been done FOR THEM by Hezbollah. It seems that when the money starts to run out, your friends do to...

At least we can semi keep track of Iran as a Nation. The various Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and other off-shoots are far less amenable to that and likely to be stopped. Centralized facilities we can get... organized and distributed terrorism needs an organized and distributed system to get it, which is *not* the modern Armed Forces.

ajacksonian   ·  March 29, 2007 10:25 AM

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