J.P. Morgan and Citibank – top American financial institutions that sit on the board of the SWIFT financial network, which facilitates international banking transactions – declined the Free Beacon inquiries into whether they intend to disconnect Iran from the network and comply with the Trump administration’s sanctions.
Both banks could play a pivotal role in ensuring SWIFT and its members obey the new sanctions, which target Iran’s Central Bank and critical infrastructure networks.
However, an ongoing standoff between European allies and the Trump administration over the implementation of the new sanctions threatens to force these US financial institutions to pick a side.
The European Union, which has been plotting for months to help Iran skirt the new US sanctions, approved earlier this week an 18-million-euro financial package for Iran, in a bid to keep the landmark nuclear deal on life support.
German officials have called on its allies to build independent banking systems that cannot be hit by US law, a move that has fueled diplomatic tensions and put US banks in a particularly delicate situation.
Congressional efforts to ensure that US banks and others disconnect Iran from SWIFT also have been met with muted reaction.
Senior US officials and leaders on the Hill have been pressuring global banks, including those in the United States, to choke Iran’s global financial access, particularly via SWIFT, the leading provider of financial transactions and banking information worldwide.
A delegation of 16 Republican lawmakers on Thursday called on SWIFT to immediately disconnect Iranian access or face the brunt of new US sanctions, which could hit both American and European financial institutions that decline to enforce the measures.
US officials who have been working on these efforts for months said that US banks such as J.P. Morgan and Citibank are being reminded they will not be spared from the Trump administration’s sanctions if they do not take steps to cut Iran’s access to SWIFT and other financial networks.
Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who has been advocating for SWIFT to disconnect Iran, told the Free Beacon that the American banks on SWIFT’s board are facing a critical decision.