The Middle East braces for more turmoil as Iran now has access to billions of dollars, dividends of the nuclear deal.
By: AP and World Israel Staff
Iran said Monday it now has access to more than $100 billion worth of frozen overseas assets following the implementation of the controversial nuclear deal with world powers.
Government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said much of the money had been piling up in banks in China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey since international sanctions were tightened in 2012 over Tehran’s nuclear program.
Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency meanwhile quoted central bank official Nasser Hakimi as saying nine Iranian banks are now reconnected to SWIFT, a Belgian-based cooperative that handles wire transfers between financial institutions. No foreign banks operate in Iran, and ATMs in Iran are not yet linked to the global system.
SWIFT had no immediate comment.
The historic agreement brought about the lifting of international sanctions last month after the UN certified that Iran has met all its commitments to curbing its nuclear activities under last summer’s accord.
“These assets ($100 billion) have fully been released and we can use them,” Nobakht said in comments posted on the website of state-run Press TV. He said much of the money belongs to Iran’s central bank and National Development Fund. He said Iran will not bring all the money back because it can be spent on purchasing goods.
Iran expects an economic breakthrough after the lifting of sanctions, which will allow it to access overseas assets and sell crude oil more freely.
Mohsen Jalalpour, the head of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, said on state TV Monday that Iranian businessmen are already able to open letters of credit for transactions in other countries.
Israel and the Arab Gulf states fear Iran will use the assets, at least in part, to fuel its global terror networks and boost its regional belligerence as its seek hegemony.
Even US Secretary of State John Kerry, an architect and staunch supporter of the nuclear accord, conceded that Iran will most probably use the assets to fund terrorism.
Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum earlier in January, he said the US or others can do little to prevent the unfrozen assets from getting into the hands of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is tasked with Iran’s foreign terror activities, or “other entities” that Iran has supported in the past.
“If we catch them funding terrorism, they’re going to have a problem in the US Congress and other people, obviously,” he said.