Washington, DC – NIAC today sent a letter to the CEO of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), urging the international organization to maintain services for humanitarian causes in Iran.
NIAC strongly believes that any sanctions against Iran should target its nuclear program and human rights abusers, not the civilian population that has no control over Iran’s nuclear program or other controversial policies. However, proposals to cut off Iran completely from the international financial system by disconnecting all Iranian banks from the SWIFT system would block services critical to the wellbeing of the Iranian people, such as the provision of food and medicine, noncommercial family remittances, and other transactions expressly exempt from U.S. and international sanctions.
The letter is available below [PDF]:
August 9, 2012
Gottfried Leibbrandt Chief Executive OfficerSociety for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT)7 Times Square, 45th floorNew York, NY 10036
Re: SWIFT Services for Humanitarian and NGO Efforts with Iran
Dear Mr. Leibbrandt:
I am writing on behalf of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), the largest grassroots organization representing Americans of Iranian descent, to express deep concern regarding the potential cutoff of SWIFT messaging services for humanitarian transactions involving Iran.
NIAC strongly believes that any sanctions should target Iran’s nuclear program and human rights abusers, not the civilian population that has no control over Iran’s nuclear program or other controversial policies. However, cutting off SWIFT messaging services for all Iranian transactions would block services critical to the wellbeing of the Iranian people, such as the provision of food and medicine, noncommercial family remittances, and other transactions expressly exempt from U.S. and international sanctions.
In short, prohibiting SWIFT messages for eligible Iranian financial institutions transactions would create a humanitarian disaster. Food insecurity will rise, access to life-saving medicine will be severely limited, and the Iranian people will suffer greatly. The toll of such measures can be massive, as evidenced by the oil embargo on Iraq that was estimated by UNICEF to have contributed to the deaths of half a million Iraqi children and which failed to topple Saddam Hussein. We strongly believe such an action would constitute collective punishment against 75 million Iranians and would be morally indefensible.
We recognize the existing U.S. financial sanctions regime has already led to the de-facto severing of many such services. As a recent report by the International Civil Society Action Network found, “Despite denials by proponents of the sanctions regime, [extraterritorial U.S. sanctions on Iranian banks] directly affected the availability of foreign-made medication and other healthcare products to Iranians including vitamins for children and pregnant women and sanitary products. The implication for serious illnesses including cancer is particularly profound.”
Therefore, it is even more vital that remaining financial channels for humanitarian goods and services remain open. SWIFT must continue to provide the financial tools necessary for humanitarian trade and related financial transactions via permissible financial institutions in Iran. The lives and wellbeing of 75 million civilians, including especially the most vulnerable in Iranian society, depend on it.
Trita Parsi, PhD President