How MasterCard Debacle got Iranian Minister in Trouble

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

Before the July 2015 nuclear deal, most banking and finance headlines about Iran concerned individuals or banks being fined or coming under investigation for allegedly violating US sanctions.

These days, news of banks and financial institutions working with Iran no longer necessarily raise eyebrows. However, an Iranian minister’s recent inference that MasterCard services will become available to Iranians has caused a stir.

On Aug. 13, several Iranian media outlets quoted Minister of Communication and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi as saying that Iran Post Company has signed a deal with a foreign firm to make MasterCard services accessible to Iranians for the first time.

“Credit and debit cards, accepted in more than 210 countries where MasterCard is valid, will be distributed at financial branches of Iran Post Company from Aug. 23, which coincides with the beginning of Government Week,” Vaezi said.

The news quickly made headlines around the world — but there have been doubts about its accuracy. MasterCard itself quickly reacted by denying any activity or cooperation with Iran. “MasterCard does not have any activities in Iran, as sanctions have remained in place for US-based companies for some time,” the company’s spokesman Seth Eisen said Aug. 15.

While the reported announcement by the Iranian minister and later denial of cooperation by MasterCard resulted in wide speculation in the Iranian media, Vaezi later tried to clarify what he described as a “misunderstanding” about his remarks.

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