Iran

FATF raises profile in 25th year with 8 new objectives

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) held its annual plenary session in June, announcing the latest additions and deductions to and from its country watch-lists, as well as presenting eight objectives for the coming year.FCA - FATF Logo

Iran and North Korea hold their places firmly in the utterly non-compliant list with the FATF’s 40 recommendations on anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (AML/CTF). AlgeriaEcuadorIndonesia and Myanmar have not made sufficient progress to get themselves off the list of countries under strict supervision by FATF for not making enough progress to change their legal frameworks. Ethiopia, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey and Yemen have and are still being monitored but it appears their efforts are moving in the right direction.

The FATF is no longer monitoring Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal and Tanzania under the anti-money laundering compliance process.

The objectives

The eight objectives for 2014/15 set out by new FATF President Roger Wylie offer an insight into where the AML/CTF standard setter will focus its resources and could shed light on policy areas relevant to different business sectors.

  1. Raising the profile of the FATF in its 25th year and communicating its continued relevance – we could see the FATF having a stronger voice on the international stage, a sign that governance risk and compliance could be under the spotlight.
  2. Working with the FSRBs to address the issue of regulatory arbitrage – look out for legal changes. As the EU used to call it, ‘harmonisation’ of legal frameworks squeezes out the differences in national policies which makes it easier for an over-arching body to enforce the rules.
  3. Emphasising the effectiveness component of mutual evaluations – it is not what you do, it is the results of what you do that count. The Fourth round of Mutual Evaluations will have an effectiveness pillar; jurisdictions will be assessed on the impact their legal framework is having on achieving the standards set out in the 40 recommendations.
  4. Ensuring quality and consistency in mutual evaluation reports across the global network – FATF Style Regional Bodies (FSRBs), sometimes referred to as ‘associate members’, carry out much of the mutual evaluation legwork and the FATF wants to ensure that they are ‘clear, fair and explicit in their evaluations and reports.’
  5. Promoting meaningful engagement and open communication with the private sector – The FATF has embraced the idea of sharing information with the sector for which it sets the standards. The revision of the 40 recommendations in 2012 was at the behest of the private sector and followed lessons learned by AML/CTF practitioners. The standard setter is also working to a faster pace. Last year’s report on financial crime in new payment products and services took a few years to be researched, produced, approved and published.  In the 12 months since then, the FATF has since published a new report on ‘virtual currencies’ which is a deeper look at a sector that was skimmed in the 2013 report. Look out for more initiatives from the FATF to engage with and learn from the private sector. This training course looks the concept in greater detail.
  6. Working with the G20 on areas of mutual interest, including corruption and beneficial ownership – Financial inclusion is another pillar of the G20 which could come up in the next 12 months. We could see some more work on the financial crime risks associated with new products designed with financial inclusion as an objective.
  7. Considering the risks associated with virtual currency and potential policy responses – Financial Crime Asia goes into more detail here.
  8. Continuing the FATF strategic view discussions, including prioritisation of the FATF’s work – A three year strategy for AML/CTF standards, according to the President’s report.
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Sanctions: talking Turkish banks with the US Fed

A Turkish bank is about to hand over the details of dollar transactions made in the second half of 2012 to the US Federal Reserve.

Ziraat Bank signed an agreement with the Fed in June 2014 to allow an independent consultant to review all US dollar clearing activity carried out between July 1 2012 and December 31 2012. This will give the US a clear view of who the bank was doing business with and for during that period.

US Federal Reserve

US Federal Reserve

The agreement published on the Fed’s website also requires the bank to submit a written compliance plan to enhance anti-money laundering (AML) requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act, an enhanced customer due diligence (CDD) program and a revised suspicious activity monitoring and reporting system.

This is an extremely powerful statement from the Fed, showing the extent of its reach beyond US borders and into the transactions made by a bank in Turkey with only a branch office in the US.

Although the scrutiny is limited to US dollar clearance transactions, this information alone could reveal the identities of any dealings the bank may have had with sanctioned individuals or entities. As suggested by one Turkish politician, the Fed could be looking for information on transfers connected to Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab from Turkey to Iran.

Zarrab was named in a report from Reuters in April, connecting him to a criminal organisation that allegedly allowed Turkey to bust US sanctions in Iran.

EU sanctions on Iran and the cost of sanctions to the US

Turkey has a history of supporting Iran. A Turkish bank was used as an intermediary for oil payments from India to Iran up to February 2013, when EU sanctions prevented Euro transactions with Iran. Several nations forged an agreement in November 2013, to ease sanctions on Iran. This gives some leeway to India who is seeking to resume using the payment channel as soon as sanctions are lifted.

Man looks at Iranian Oil Tanker

Man looks at Iranian Oil Tanker – Nat Geo image

Meanwhile, a court in Luxembourg has annulled sanctions placed on the Iranian National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC). The firm contested the EU’s 2012 sanctions, claiming the firm is privately owned by Iranian pension funds. In July, a court in Luxembourg decided there was no evidence that NITC was owned by the Iranian government and that the sanctions on NITC represented a ‘manifest error of assessment‘ by the EU. This is a great boost for NITC, who now has to wait another two months for an appeals to come forward before it can resume trading with Europe.

Sanctions on Iran have cost the US government USD$175bn, according to a study made by the National Iranian-American Council published in Time. The losses since the US started sanctioning Iran in the mid 1990s are apparent in US employment rates, particularly in California and Texas. The report comes at a time when western nations are working on a deal with Iran to scale back nuclear operations in return for reduced sanctions.

Source: Today’s Zaman

Iran nuclear talks wrap up – Iran wants punishing UN, Western sanctions lifted

VIENNA: Iran and six world powers left themselves with a lot to do in a short amount of time after a difficult fifth round of nuclear talks ended yesterday, a month before the deadline for a deal. The aim is to secure a mammoth deal by July 20 to reduce the programme and ease fears the Islamic republic will get atomic weapons.

Iran denies wanting the bomb and wants punishing UN and Western sanctions lifted. The parties had “begun the drafting process” and would start the next round of talks on July 2, said a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who is chief negotiator for the six world powers.

“We have worked extremely hard all week to develop elements we can bring together when we meet for the next round in Vienna,” said the spokesman, Michael Mann. “We presented each other with a number of ideas on a range of issues, and we have begun the drafting process.” Officials on both sides said however that although the drafting process had begun, haggling over language concerning the thorniest problems was being put off until later.

“It has been another really tough round,” said a diplomat from one of the “P5+1″ six powers late Thursday. “That doesn’t surprise me or particularly dismay me since from the very beginning we have always known that if a deal was to be done, it was going to be very difficult,” the envoy said.

A second diplomat said earlier this week that Iran was refusing to budge on most issues.  “It is worrying that there is no evolution on the part of the Iranians on most subjects,” the diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity, including “major” differences on the key issue of uranium enrichment. “The talks are being held in a serious and productive atmosphere, but progress in drafting the comprehensive agreement has been limited,” one Iranian diplomat told the IRNA news agency.

The trickiest issue is uranium enrichment-the process of making nuclear fuel for civilian purposes but also, when highly purified, for a nuclear weapon. Western countries want Iran to slash the number of centrifuge enrichment machines in order to make it harder for Iran to process enough material for a bomb in a short period of time. Other thorny issues include the duration of the mooted accord, the pace of any sanctions relief and a reactor being built at Arak that might give Iran weapons-grade plutonium.

Extension

The negotiations can be extended by up to six months beyond July 20, when an interim deal struck in November expires, but for now both sides were still aiming to get a deal by that date. US President Barack Obama is particularly keen to ensure the deadline is met. He faces midterm elections in the US in November and hopes to silence accusations that the talks are merely giving Iran time to inch closer to the bomb.

“We are absolutely focused on July 20 … We are not interesting in talking about a rollover,” the P5+1 diplomat said, adding it would be a “long time” until such an extension is even discussed. Mark Fitzpatrick, a former US State Department official now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said it was “not surprising” that difficult topics were being put off until later.

“If there is going to be a breakthrough on the key issues, it won’t come until the last moment,” Fitzpatrick told AFP. Mann said that political directors from the six countries would meet in Brussels on June 26. – AFP

Source: Kuwait Times

Have international sanctions affected Iran’s World Cup?

Sanctions and embargoes aren’t just buzzwords that affect Barcelona’s player transfers and Paris St Germain’s infringements on the Financial Fair Play rules. Laura Jones looks at whether Iran has suffered more than most in their preparations for the World Cup.

What if sanctions and embargoes were in place because your country is deemed to be a threat to the security of other countries?

This is the current situation in Iran.

Iran has extensive financial and trade sanctions in place against it, imposed by the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) and enforced by governments across the globe. These embargoes are designed to penalise the Iranian government for refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment programme.

The reasoning behind the sanctions is to cut off any trade or funding that could be use to acquire materials for the continuation of the country’s nuclear programme. The impact is having a bearing on the entire Iranian population where poverty is on the increase and businesses are failing because they are also prohibited by the trade sanctions.

Iran reached the 2014 World Cup with a 1-0 win over South Korea - this will be just their fourth World Cup

However, there is a dispute about whether the national football team is suffering the same fate, or if the lack of preparation for the World Cup is a product of incompetence by the Iran Football Federation (FFI).

As oil companies are finding it difficult to import the necessary equipment to export its natural resource, Iran’s national team has been discovering that to be able to prepare adequately for the world’s biggest football stage they also need better kit.

Players have been allocated one tracksuit during the World Cup preparations. They have also been ordered by the FFI not to swap shirts with opposition players during the tournament.

According to the President of the FFI, Ali Kafaschian, they are “not giving the players a shirt for every game. The players need to be economical with the shirts.”

It will be interesting to see if the are any repercussions for the player who defies this command by swapping his shirt with Lionel Messi, when Iran play Argentina on the 21 June.

In 2011, Queiroz signed a deal to coach the Iran national football team until the end of the 2014 FIFA World Cup

The current Iran coach, Carlos Queiroz, has been publicly apoplectic about the quality of the training kit. Before the qualifying games against Qatar and South Korea the kit supplied to the team sounded like the remnants of the box at school when you’d forgotten your PE kit. Football boots were supplied but not in the correct sizes for the players and the socks allegedly shrunk during the humidity of the game. As the former Manchester United coach observed “this could have put Iran out of the World Cup.”

A bad workman blames his tools but when footballers are playing in shoes too large for them and socks that are shrinking on their feet as they play, you can’t help but feel a little embarrassed for the players.

The kit issues and the lack of quality opposition in the run up to the World Cup have been blamed on the UN sanctions. This has certainly been the view of Western media but Middle Eastern journalists are less convinced. Mani Djazmi, an Iranian-born BBC journalist, doesn’t believe the international sanctions are affecting the national team. He thinks the blame lies with “an incompetent FA.”

There are suggestions that the Iranian FA is overrun with officials that are focussing on everything but improving the team, yet claiming it is in the best interests of the squad. This is why Carlos Queiroz has been so vocal in his dismay, so much so that the FA has alleged that the Iran coach has been pocketing money from lucrative warm up games. An allegation he firmly denies. If Queiroz is right then being seen as an international pariah is helpful cover for an incompetent FA.

Djazmi highlights the domestic leagues, where it is more obvious that the financial restrictions are having an impact. Players have complained of not being paid for months and they have either left the country to play in Persian Gulf leagues or continued to play without pay.

Iran appeared at their first World Cup in 1978

Serbian footballer Goran Lovre claimed that his club Esteghlal were holding him hostage by keeping his passport and refusing to pay him. In a case reminiscent of French footballer, Zahir Belounis, trapped in Qatar. Lovre looked for sanctuary at the Serbian embassy but the matter was quickly resolved with a settlement and a release from his contract.

As we have seen in previous World Cups, football can be used as a tool of unity. There are mixed reports coming from Tehran about whether the government is using the Brazilian tournament as propaganda.

Former international footballer, Hassan Nayeb-Agha, who played in first Iran squad to qualify for the World Cup in 1978, believes the government are:

“Dealing with a totally disenchanted and disgruntled population, in particular among the young people, (they are) trying to use the World Cup as a tool.The regime’s objective is to pretend as though it is an advocate of sports, sportsmen and Iranian national team – and in the process they hope to appease the growing animosity Iranians and the youth in particular have for the regime.”

The police in Iran have allegedly tightened their grip on supporters enjoying the World Cup. Cafes in the capital Tehran have been banned from screening the games and mixed gender cinemas will not be allowed to show the games either. According to BBC journalist, Djazmi, Iranian’s don’t traditionally gather in numbers to watch games because large organised gatherings are prohibited. Most supporters watch the matches in their own homes. On that score everything seems to be business as usual. Not that the citizens of Iran will take comfort in this.

Djazmi leaves me with the thoughts of one of his friends.

“Iran can run out of petrol and people would grumble, but if Iran was banned from FIFA there would be blood on the streets.”

Maybe the Iran FA should have invested more in the national squad after all.

 

Source: Offside Rule

Iran will go after its money in Turkey

An interesting look at why Iran goes after embezzled state funds but may FCA - Rouhaninot get to the bottom of the bribery network. This story reveals how a the military’s appointed chauffeur to the former head of the Central Bank earned USD20,000 a day as a bagman making illegal foreign currency transfers and went on to make USD14bn in assets. Using his network of international connections, he became a key figure in circumventing sanctions on Iran, facilitating crude oil sales in the 2000s under President Mahmood Ahmedinejad’s regime.

Babak Zanjani, the man at the centre of the case, and a former ally of the regime, is now looking like President Hasan Rouhani’s first scalp in a campaign to clean up Iran’s financial dealings. Transparency brings in foreign investors. Zanjani was named in the European Union’s sanctions on Iran in December 2012

Iranian investigators have travelled to Malaysia, Tajikistan and Turkey to track down Zanjani’s funds. He has been in custody and under interrogation in Iran since January. Corruption is punishable by death in Iran.

Looking too closely at who was involved in a bribery and corruption schemes in any jurisdiction could expose people in the top ranks of government and where their hands have been. Those in power will carefully protecting their position and reputation.

To learn more about this case, read this analysis.

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Terrorist financing: Spain arrests four in Iran proliferation network

Spanish law enforcement officers have arrested a group people suspected of trafficking sanctioned materials through Spain to Iran. The group FCA - SPAIN TBML ARRESTmoved dual-use goods, so-called as they can be used for civilian or military purposes and which in this case could have been used for Iran’s banned nuclear programme.

Officers received information on the purchase of two metal working machines from a British defence company in 2013. The Guardia Civil police force believes the machines were first sent from the UK to Spain to throw investigators off the scent and until they could be safely sent onto their final destination in Iran. Sending dual-use goods to Iran is in breach of international sanctions  in connection with the development of the country’s nuclear and missile programs.

The suspects – three Spaniards and one Iranian – have been charged with belonging to a criminal organisation, smuggling dual-use materials and money laundering. Investigators raided four homes and business premises in Tarragona, northern Spain and in Palma de Mallorca in the Canary Islands. The industrial metal working machines were made by LEIFELD. Officers seized the equivalent of EUR10,000 in Iranian Rials and Euros which they suspect was earned through trafficking. The police also issued an order to freeze the assets of companies suspected of being part of the network.

Proliferation parameters

Although not mentioned in the Guardia Civil’s press release, the cash to pay for the machinery must have been channelled through the financial system somehow. FCA - SPAIN TBML METALMACHINETransactions to defence companies and for duel-use materials should be in a high-risk category and subject to enhanced scrutiny, including enhanced due-diligence for entities involved in the transactions.

Identifying dual-use materials from a transaction sheet, however, can be challenging for bank analysts who are not necessarily aware of the range of uses a gas centrifuge, for example, can be put to. Transaction monitoring software can be tuned to identify suspicious transfers within certain parameters, but where does the bank get the information from to set the parameters? Entity based parameters which include geography, type of business, beneficial owners, locations of subsidiaries, are easier to follow than new technological developments.

The Financial Action Task Force stepped up its work on ‘proliferation financing’ in 2012 when it made implementing targeted financial sanctions to comply with the United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs) relating to the prevention, suppression and disruption of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and its financing one of its 40 Recommendations.  A 2010 report on the subject examines, among other areas, how practitioners can apply a risk-based approach to proliferation financing, managing transaction monitoring and analyses the pros and cons of  ‘goods based screening.’  The report notes that financial institutions are not necessarily in possession of the technical knowledge available to experts and exporters and that a list of controlled goods can be a challenge for export enforcement authorities and real time screening.

‘Goods lists, in themselves, should not be used as a basis for transaction screening by FIs, as they are difficult for those without a degree of technical expertise to interpret correctly which thus make them an inefficient safeguard.’

Reports produced on this subject by the International Chamber of Commerce provide useful information for financial institutions working on international trade transactions and examples of sanctions clauses which could appear in transactions.

 

Source: Guardia Civil

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Noam Chomsky: Talking About Iran Sanctions Is ‘Surreal’

Iran and six world leaders agreed to a plan Thursday for negotiating an agreement to freeze Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for eased economic sanctions. But author and activist Noam Chomsky isn’t convinced the United States has the right to impose sanctions at all. FCA - Nukes

“My feeling is that the entire discussion is kind of surreal,” Chomsky said last month during an interview with HuffPost Live. “There are more fundamental questions to ask. What justification does the United States have to impose sanctions in the first place?”

WATCH Chomsky’s comments in the video above.

The United States, Britain and the United Nations Security Council have already levied significant economic sanctions against Iran in an attempt to persuade the nation to abandon what the U.S. believes could be a potential nuclear weapons program. President Hassan Rouhani, who replaced hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year, forged an agreement in November with the U.S. and several other countries to help boost the struggling Iranian economy.

Chomsky argued that reports from U.S. intelligence agencies have not confirmed Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

“As far as U.S. intelligence knows, Iran is developing nuclear capacities, but they don’t know if they are trying to develop nuclear weapons or not,” Chomsky told HuffPost Live. “Chances are they’re developing what’s called ‘nuclear capability,’ which many states have. That is the ability to have nuclear weapons if they decide to do it. That’s not a crime.”

Chomsky pointed out that the United States has accepted the decisions by Israel, India and Pakistan to develop nuclear weapons, even though, he said, in each case it was a violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. He also argued that U.S. intelligence reports show Iran has a limited military capability and that its primary concern is defense.

“Basically what [the reports] say is that Iran has very low military expenditures even by the standards of the region,” Chomsky said. “They have a very limited capacity to deploy force. Their strategic doctrine is defensive. An effort to deter invasion if it takes place, long enough for negotiations to be undertaken.”

Iran’s defensive strategy is the result of the United States’ presence in the region, Chomsky argued.

“Why should Iran have a deterrent strategy?” Chomsky said. “Well, it’s surrounded by hostile enemies. Both of its borders have been under occupation by a hostile superpower, the United States, which is constantly violating the U.N. charter by leaving open what they call the saying, ‘all options are open’ — meaning the threat of war. The U.N. charter bars the threat of force. The Iranian government is undoubtedly a severe danger to its own population, but not beyond that. In fact, the rest of the world doesn’t think so.”

Source – HuffPost

 

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US Treasury Official comments on foreign banks’ return to Iran

English: current flag of iran

English: current flag of iran (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Foreign banks and companies will only reenter the Iranian market upon the finalization of a comprehensive, permanent nuclear agreement with the country, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

In a hearing, U.S. Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the recent spate of visits by foreign trade delegations to Tehran won’t result in new commercial deals under the 6-month joint plan of action agreed to by Iran and six other nations in November.

“We are as crystal clear as possible in all of our engagements that if these talks turn into deals that violate the elaborate sanctions regime that remains in place, that we will take action,” Cohen told lawmakers. “You see these delegations going to Tehran, but those conversations are about what may come in the future, not about what could happen today.”

The deal, which formally began on Jan. 20, keeps intact the vast majority of banking sanctions, including most U.S. measures against foreign banks doing business with Iran. Under the agreement, Germany and the five permanent member-states on the U.N. Security Council loosened restrictions on the trade of oil, automotive parts and precious metals and agreed to unfreeze $4.2 billion of Iranian funds.

“Most of these delegations appear to be going to get in line for the day that a comprehensive agreement is reached, if it is reached,” said Wendy Sherman, the Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and the lead U.S. negotiator for the agreement, during Tuesday’s hearing.

Sherman delivered the comments a day after a delegation of over 100 French businessmen began a 3-day visit to Tehran. The delegation included representatives from France’s food, consulting, law, shipping, insurance, advertising, construction, pharmaceuticals and financial industries and included representatives of one bank, according to the Financial Times.

Delegates from Italy, Germany, Austria, Portugal and South Korea have also recently visited the Islamic Republic.

“We have told them all that they are putting their reputations, themselves, and their business enterprises at risk if they jump the gun,” Sherman said.

Tuesday’s testimony by the two officials comes amid an orchestrated effort by the Obama administration to assuage critics concerned that the joint plan may not go far enough to stall Iran’s purported nuclear weapons program.

U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, have discouraged reported attempts by Iran to barter its oil for Russian goods, Sherman said, at the hearing.

The deal, first reported by Reuters, would see Russia swap 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil directly for Russian products, bypassing international banking sanctions and possibly violating U.S. restrictions.

“Anything like such an agreement between Russia and Iran would have potential sanctionable action… and make coming to a comprehensive agreement all the more difficult,” said Sherman.

The hearing coincides with the apparent stalemating of a new sanctions package introduced in December by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and committee chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

Critics of the bill, which is cosponsored by over half the Senate, have argued that adopting new sanctions before the interim deal expires in July could prematurely terminate ongoing negotiations for a comprehensive agreement that would include more substantial sanctions relief in exchange for permanent limitations to Iran’s nuclear efforts.

President Obama vowed to veto new Iran sanctions legislation in his Jan. 28 State of the Union address.

Despite the Treasury Department’s efforts to engage with foreign banks and governments, the interim accord could permit Iran to exploit new channels of illicit finance, according to Mark Dubowitz, a longtime sanctions advocate and head of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a pro-Israel policy center in Washington, D.C.

“Iran may now be using gold to finance the war in Syria, which may be an unintended consequence of relaxing precious metals sanctions” that had been in effect since July 2012, said Dubowitz, at the hearing.

Despite U.S. concessions, taking advantage of the temporary sanctions relief is more practical on paper than in practice, according to Erich Ferrari, a sanctions attorney with Washington, D.C.-based Ferrari Legal, P.C.

“It’s still going to be difficult to do anything commercial because the affected businesses have by and large already left Iran,” Ferrari said. “This means they have to reinstitute themselves in Iran, negotiate the deals, finalize those deals, deliver the goods and find a banking channel to receive payment before the deadline.”

Deals for sellers of commercial aviation replacement parts seemingly facilitated by the accord can take up to a year to complete “in the best circumstances,” said Ferrari.

Newly licensed deals with Iran, “from contract, to delivery, to payment,” must begin no earlier than Jan. 20 and terminate no later than July 20, Cohen confirmed Tuesday.

Source: MoneyLaundering.com

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Wrestling with dimplomacy: Has Iran ruler’s Twitter account helped ease OFAC sanctions?

Wrestling with diplomacy - Iran tackles US head on

Wrestling with diplomacy – Iran tackles US head on

 

The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has taken to using his Twitter account to share his ideas and movements and promote diplomacy,  which is a far cry from his predecessor’s tactics. Although a recent breakthrough in sanctions on Iran may not be directly linked to one of Rouhani’s tweets, his efforts to create transparency in Iran since he took office on August 3rd, less than 40 days ago, have been effective to say the least.

The US Treasury‘s Office of Foreign Assets Control has issued two general licences which authorise the exportation of services and funds transfers by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to support humanitarian needs and athletic exchanges.

The OFAC press release and details of General Licence E (humanitarian) and General Licence F (athletics) are here.

Wrestling with diplomacy

In February, the US national wrestling team touched down in Tehran to compete alongside Iranian and other national wrestling teams in the World Cup Tournament. This scored a diplomatic coup for both countries and may have allowed the US Government direct access to next ruler of Iran before candidate registration opened in May. Either that, or the trip to Tehran may have been a fortuitous coincidence. 

Nonetheless, the limited application licenses demonstrate clearly the US is willing to reopen communications with Iran and this may be due in no small part to efforts by Iran’s Twitter using, moderate cleric President Hassan Rouhani who is actively trying to re-establish Iran’s reputation on the global scale and to reinvigorate an economy severely damaged by sanctions on oil, gas and financial transactions. This week, he even tweeted good wishes to Israel for Rosh Hashanah.

Rouhani has repeatedly called for a lift on social media black-outs in Iran, and despite some opposition, has formed a task force dedicated to studying the legality of what Iranian’s say online and how they use the internet. Rouhani has used his twitter account in the past to comment on education, women, chemical weapons use and ‘Al Qaeda wreaking havoc’ in Syria.

The Iranian leader’s use of twitter as a diplomatic channel is a far cry from ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‘s ultra-conservative, Holocaust denying approach to building bridges.

Follow Rouhani on Twitter @HassanRouhani.

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