US officials familiar with the talks told the Washington Free Beacon that Congress is in a heated discussion with the US Treasury Department, which seeks to keep the financial lines open. According to the officials, Congress, trying to toughen the sanctions on Iran which will go into effect on November 4, wants to end Iran’s connection to SWIFT, which facilitates Tehran’s major foreign transactions.
While Trump and top administration officials, including National Security Adviser John Bolton, have publicly advocated for a hard stance on Iran, the Treasury Department has reportedly insisted that Iran’s connection to SWIFT remain intact, possibly due to pressure from European allies.
The bill was reportedly supported by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). “To end the Iranian terrorist regime's ambitions for nuclear weapons once and for all, the Trump administration must not only restore all sanctions suspended by President Obama's flawed nuclear deal but also impose additional, farther-reaching sanctions that truly maximize pressure against Iran's government,” Rubio told the Free Beacon.
One source familiar with the legislation said that the bill goes beyond what sanctions the Treasury Department is willing to impose, especially since taking action against SWIFT would also mean acting against two major American banks that are part of it, JP Morgan and Citibank.
“The president has made it clear he intends to implement a maximum pressure strategy against the Iranian regime. Disconnecting Iranian banks from the SWIFT network is a crucial element of that approach. If administration officials attempt to create loopholes for the Iranians, then Congress will take action to ensure Iranian banks are cut off from SWIFT.” said one congressional staffer who works on Iran sanctions and is familiar with Cruz’s proposed legislation.
”Treasury has made it very clear that we will continue to cut off bad Iranian actors, including designated banks, from accessing the international financial system in a number of different ways,” a Treasury Department official told the Free Beacon, adding that the department is ready to target banks that conduct prohibited transactions with Iranian entities under the sanctions. However, the official said, the administration “will not comment specifically on any future sanctions on SWIFT or other entities.”