Kerry tries to ignore US sanctions role in avoiding Iran trade

Tehran, May 10,The Iran Project – Companies around the world are using the United States as an excuse to avoid doing business with Iran, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday ahead of a meeting with European banks to discuss the Iran talks, in an attempt to ignore US sanctions role in avoiding trade with Iran.

The United States and Europe lifted sanctions in January under a deal with Iran to limit its peaceful nuclear program, but other U.S. sanctions remain, including a ban on Iran-linked transactions in dollars being processed through the U.S. financial system.

This has meant that few European banks, and none of the big ones that have deep relationships with the U.S. banking system, have been willing to get involved in trade with Iran.

“If they don’t want to do business or they don’t see a good business deal, they shouldn’t say, ‘Oh, we can’t do it because of the United States,'” Kerry told reporters in London. “We sometimes get used as an excuse in this process.”

The British media reported on Monday that some of the country’s biggest banks have been invited to a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the openings that the removal of sanctions against have created for them over their banking transactions with the country.

The discussions will be held against an uncertain backdrop for UK banks, some of which are keen to do more business with Tehran but remain nervous about the consequences of deals which may be frowned upon by Washington, Sky News reported.

Asian and European government and companies, primarily banks, have sought written clarification about what current U.S. laws and financial regulations allow. Essentially, they want a promise that the U.S. will not prosecute or punish them for transactions involving Iran – a step the U.S. has so far been reluctant to take.

Yet foreign companies have cited legitimate concerns about potential punishment from the U.S. if they violate the remaining sanctions. In 2014, before the nuclear deal, French bank BNP Paribas agreed to pay almost $9 billion in penalties and plead guilty to processing transactions for clients in Iran and other U.S.-sanctioned nations.

In addition, foreign companies are unsure whether President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran will survive. Although the Democratic candidates for president support the deal, Republicans have lambasted it and threatened to slap back sanctions after Obama leaves office.

Also, George Kleinfeld, a lawyer and sanctions expert at the Clifford Chance law firm in Washington, at the Europe-Iran Forum in Zurich held last week, urged the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to issue “a general license that would permit foreign financial institutions to involve US-person employees” in legal Iran-related business by non-US banks.

Iran’s  government has complained about not getting the full economic fruits of the nuclear deal. Ayatollah  Seyyed Ali Khamenei, supreme leader of the Islamic  Republic, has blamed the delays squarely on the United States.

“The U.S. Treasury … acts in such a way that big corporations, big institutions and big banks do not dare to come and deal with Iran,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in March.

Iranian business leaders believe the United States has failed to spell out exactly what is permitted and what is not, maintaining uncertainty and putting off international banks from processing Iran-linked transactions.