BRUSSELS/WASHINGTON: Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), which provides banks with a system for moving funds around the world, bowed to international pressure on Friday and said it was ready to block Iranian banks from using its network to transfer money. Expelling Iranian banks from SWIFT would shut down Tehran’s main avenue to doing business with the rest of the world – an outcome the West believes is crucial to curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. SWIFT, which has never cut off a country before, is vital to international money flows, exchanging an average 18 million payment messages per day between banks and other financial institutions in 210 countries. SWIFT said its decision reflected the extraordinary circumstances of international support for the intensification of sanctions against Iran.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2012.