Editorial: Iranian money laundering a bad omen for talks


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Economic sanctions: A weapon in the U.S. arsenal that can devastate foreign economies and strike fear into their hearts. Right?

Maybe not. In a globalized world in which outright military conflict between global powers is rare, economic sanctions have been the go-to weapon in international disputes. 

Last month saw the end of a dispute spanning more than five decades. President Obama eased some of President Kennedy’s economic sanctions on Cuba. Ultimately, the sanctions appeared to have little effect in ousting the communist regime, and they made the life of the average Cuban unfairly difficult. We can only hope a taste of free markets might spark a new vision in Cuban hearts, if one doesn’t burn there already.

Current economic sanctions have been all about Russia and Iran. And they both represent some of the real problems with theoretically sound economic sanctions. For example, in Russia, shortages and decreased economic activity is used to fuel support for President Valdimir Putin and incite anger towards the United States.

As for Iran, well, it has come under fire this week. What do you do when someone is blocking your way? You go around them.

According to Reuters, Iran has smuggled at least $1 billion in U.S. cash into its country. The money is converted from other currencies in Dubai and Iraq to the U.S. dollar, funneled through front businesses, and physically transported to Iran by couriers. Their carry-ons are stuffed with Benjamins.

Iran has been severely affected by sanctions. Without access to international banking and oil exporting, its economy has shriveled. Whether the effects will be blamed on Tehran or Washington by the Iranian people is yet to be seen. 

The sanctions have been a powerful tool in the Iranian nuclear negotiations. The smuggling of U.S. dollars brings into question the integrity of Tehran and whether it would take a similar underhanded approach to its nuclear-program agreements.

While the country’s integrity is questionable, its motives are logical. That is the major difference to consider when evaluating Tehran and its trustworthiness. Sanctions have crippled its economy, and it has found other ways to get money in and out of the country. Much like moonshine production during Prohibition, Iranians discovered a way around the rules. With a nuclear-program treaty, no one would apply pressure through such force, except conditions that would likely require inspections by international agencies. Under those circumstances, could we trust Iran to honor any nuclear deal?

 The Daily Iowan Editorial Board greatly disapproves of Tehran’s money laundering. The act undermines U.S. economic sanction strategies, though it is understandable. One would expect a squeezed government to do anything it could to boost its economy. 

Still, the money brought into Iran is cause of further suspicion in the nuclear-program talks between that country and the United States and other major powers. It is both unfortunate, because of the importance of the talks, and unsettling, because of the ramifications of an untrustworthy Iranian government. The Daily Iowan Editorial Board sees this turn of events as a foreboding sign of possible contention moving forward in the Iranian nuclear-program talks.

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