How Sanctions Relief became a Tool in Iran’s Domestic Battles

By Khatereh Vatankhah, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

With the removal of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, domestic opponents of the administration of President Hassan Rouhani have changed tack, shifting to criticism of his handling of the economy. In their latest attack, these critics are now questioning whether Iran has really been readmitted to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, known as SWIFT.

The criticism has become so intense that Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, a senior member of Iran’s nuclear negotiating team, has stepped in to the aid of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI). Addressing critics on state television, Araghchi said, “Anyone who has any doubts can go to the SWIFT room in the Central Bank of Iran and see for themselves that the banking system has already joined SWIFT.”

This is the first time that a Foreign Ministry official has come to the direct defense of Iran’s economic sector in this manner.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed between Iran and six world powers on July 14, 2015, and formally implemented six months later, on Jan. 16, 2016, leading to the removal of nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran. Now, more than three months later, Rouhani’s opponents are using SWIFT as a tool to attack his government, despite the administration having repeatedly announced that Iranian banks have been reconnected to the global financial messaging system.

Exactly one month after the JCPOA’s formal implementation day, CBI Gov. Valiollah Seif said that nine Iranian banks would rejoin SWIFT as a result of sanctions relief. However, although the CBI soon announced the readmission of Iran to SWIFT, many observers claimed the news was false.

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