MarketWatch.com - Pre-Market Indications

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The day the US declared war on Iran

By John McGlynn

March 20 is destined to be another day of infamy. On this date this year, the US officially declared war on Iran. But it's not going to be the kind of war many have been expecting.

No, there was no dramatic televised announcement by President George W Bush from the White House. In fact, on this day, reports the Washington Post, Bush spent some time communicating directly with Iranians, telling them via Radio Farda (the US-financed broadcaster that transmits to Iran in Farsi, Iran's native language) that their government has "declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people". But not to worry, he told his listeners in Farsi-translated Bushspeak: Tehran would not get the bomb because the US would be 'firm'."

Over at the US Congress, no war resolution was passed, no



debate transpired, no last-minute hearing on the Iran "threat" was held. The Pentagon did not put its forces on red alert and cancel all leave. The top story on the Pentagon's website (on March 20) was: "Bush lauds military's performance in terror war", a feel-good piece about the president's appearance on the US military's TV channel to praise "the performance and courage of US troops engaged in the global war on terrorism". Bush discussed Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa, but not Iran.

But make no mistake. As of Thursday, March 20 the US is at war with Iran. So who made it official?

A unit within the US Treasury Department, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which issued a March 20 advisory to the world's financial institutions under the title: "Guidance to financial institutions on the continuing money laundering threat involving illicit Iranian activity."

FinCEN, though part of the chain of command, is better known to bankers and lawyers than to students of US foreign policy. Nevertheless, when the history of this newly declared war is one day written (assuming the war is allowed to proceed) FinCEN's role will be as important as that played by US Central Command (CENTCOM) in directing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In its March 20 advisory, FinCEN reminds the global banking community that United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSC) 1803 (passed on March 3, 2008) "calls on member states to exercise vigilance over the activities of financial institutions in their territories with all banks domiciled in Iran, and their branches and subsidiaries abroad".

UNSC 1803 specifically mentions two Iranian state-owned banks: Bank Melli and Bank Saderat. These two banks (plus their overseas branches and certain subsidiaries), along with a third state-owned bank, Bank Sepah, were also unilaterally sanctioned by the US in 2007 under anti-proliferation and anti-terrorism presidential executive orders 13382 and 13224.

As of March 20, however, the US, speaking through FinCEN, is now telling all banks around the world "to take into account the risk arising from the deficiencies in Iran's AML/CFT [anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism] regime, as well as all applicable US and international sanctions programs, with regard to any possible transactions" with - and this is important - not just the above three banks but every remaining state-owned, private and special government bank in Iran.

In other words, FinCEN charges, all of Iran's banks - including the central bank (also on FinCEN's list) - represent a risk to the international financial system, no exceptions. Confirmation is possible by comparing FinCEN's list of risky Iranian banks with the listing of Iranian banks provided by Iran's central bank.


full article
Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs

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