Iran’s Illusory Sanctions

By Rachel Ehrenfeld
Saturday, February 9th, 2013 @ 3:02AM

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While the U.S. declares more sanctions on Iran, the EU, which had ratified the UN sanctions resolution against Iran on June 9, 2010, has been steadily removing Iranian banks from its sanction list. The EU’s recent removal of Bank Sederat, Bank Sina and Bank Mellat helps to bolster Iran’s economy, facilitates European purchase of Iranian oil and gas and other trade with Iran, and eases Tehran’s funding of those who advance its agenda.

American statements of the hardship caused to the Iranian economy seem to have little effect on the Revolutionary Guards. ECASB.COM reports that they are busy building the world’s tallest double-curvature arc dam on the Bakhtiari River in southwestern Iran.

Last week, Pakistan announced a $250 million loan from Iran to help finance the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline “exporting 21.5 million cubic meters of Iranian natural gas per day to Pakistan.” In addition, Iran will pay “$500 million to complete the Pakistani section of the project…the rest will be provided by the Pakistani government.” Would that come from the $1.4 billion the U.S. is giving to Pakistan for economic development?

On February 22, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will decide whether Turkey’s new laws against terrorist financing meet the international standard. FATF requires its 36 member states to freeze assets of suspected terrorists who deal with Iran or North Korea. However, Turkey’s anti-terror laws have been used to curtail only domestic, not international terror groups, as listed by the U.N. This facilitated the government’s curtailing of its opposition and open support for the likes of Hamas and Iran. FATF’s satisfaction with Turkey’s new anti-terrorist funding legislation will most likely be influenced by its European members’ energy dependency on Iran.

In recent years, Turkey has become not only a major pipeline to bypass sanctions on Iran, but also a primary patron of Hamas in Gaza.

In December 2011, Erdogan instructed the Ministry of Finance to send $300 million to the Hamas government. Since last November, after Israel reacted to Hamas’ constant bombardments, Turkey sent additional funds to help withGaza “rebuilding.” Erdogan has repeatedly stated, “I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization,” and calledIsrael, “a terrorist state.” He has also criticized the U.S. for supporting Israel’s right to defend itself. In addition to sending Turkish vessels with aid to Hamas, he expelled Israeli diplomats and cut military ties with the country in 2010.

More recent support was reported by Al-Anadolu News Agency, on January 29 &30, 2013:

“The Turkish ambassador to Israel entered the Gaza Strip on January 28, 2013, through the Erez crossing to monitor two projects first hand (the rehabilitation of ‘war wounded’ and the construction of a Turkish university hospital at the Islamic University). The two projects are being carried out with funding from the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA), which belongs to the Turkish government.

“As part of the aid Turkey provides to the Gaza Strip, Hani al-Agha, director of the Turkish Yardim Eli (‘a supporting hand’) organization in the Gaza Strip, said…that his organization had recently given financial aid to 2,660 families in the wake of Operation Pillar of Defense (Al-Anadolu News Agency, January 30, 2013).”

A 2010 report in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera documented Turkey’s help in transferring Iran arms to Hezbollah. Hezbollah, in turn, have sent some of the weapons to Hamas. Subsequent media reports discussed Turkey’s role in transferring Iranian arms to Hezbollah and Syria.

Along with China, and Dubai (Iran is Dubai’s second largesttrading partner), Turkey is a major facilitator of Iranian many successful endeavors to skirt Western economic sanctions.

Both Turkey’s economy minister Zafer Caglayan and its Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz have recently stated that Turkey will maintain its energy relationship with Iran.

Turkey, as other EU and FATF members, gets its natural gas from the Islamic Republic. Yildiz justification is that international sanctions against Iran do not include natural gas. However, in addition to 20 percent of gas, Turkey also imports oil from Iran. In return, Ankara delivers gold to Tehran, in the equivalent amount to the much inflated prices quoted by Iran.

If this were all Turkey was doing to humor Iran, it would be enough. However, there’s the services offered by Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank to consider.  Turkish lira paid for Iranian gas are deposited in Halkbank. Iran draws on its Halkbank account to purchase gold.  Moreover, Halkbank is one of the few Turkish banks that have other sorts of dealings with Iran. In 2012, it was reported to be processing payments from third parties for Iranian goods, including “payments for Indian refiners unable to pay Tehran for imported oil through their own banking system for fear of retribution from Washington.”

This week brought a story out of Ghana about a gold transaction deal between the government of Ghana and the Iranian government.  A cargo plane arrived it the Accra airport to “lift” out of Ghana to Dubai 1.5 tons of “mineral samples” for “laboratory analysis only and of no commercial value.”  Of course, said samples were gold bullion worth an estimated $62 million.  The Ghanaian Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) reported that the cargo was detained at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul on January 1, “because of claims of questionable documentation.”  Why did the airplane stop in Turkey, one wonders? Picking up more “mineral samples.” Perhaps.

In a sign that Turkey doesn’t fear FATF’s sanctions, or U.S.repercussions (it already received the first of two U.S. Patriotantimissile units deployed near it’s boarder with Syria),Turkey’s Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan confidently told reporters on Thursday, “We will continue to make our gold exports this year to whoever seeks them. We have no restrictions and are not bound by restrictions imposed by others.”

Further Readings: 

1. Turkey-Hamas-Hezbollah: A New Trinity?

2. Daniel Greenfield: Syria Threatens Turkey with Hezbollah’s Missiles

3. AnsaMed: Turkey: Hezbollah-linked group to enter politics with party

4. Wall Street Journal: U.S. Bears Down on Turkey’s Gold Link to Iran

5. What’s Iran doing with Turkish gold?

6. Sunday’s Zaman: Iranians take lion’s share of Turkey’s gold exports

7. Dubai gold dealers shun Turkish bars on fears of link to Iran

Categories: ACD/EWI Blog

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