Home News General Expanded Sanctions Relief Could Mean Expansion of Activities Like Hacking

Expanded Sanctions Relief Could Mean Expansion of Activities Like Hacking

Last week, reports circulated widely in Western media regarding US diplomats who had been tasked with selling the Iran nuclear deal to US-based businesses, the vast majority of which remain wary of investing in Iran out of fear that they will run afoul of outstanding sanctions, or will lose the value of their investments because of later re-imposition of punitive measures against Iran’s nuclear program and other illicit behaviors.

The Tower notes that this situation has stoked fears among US lawmakers and foreign allies who are critical of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and who feel that the Obama administration may not be willing to take steps to enforce Iran’s obligations if it means endangering the hard-won nuclear deal.

By encouraging US businesses to reestablish financial ties with the Islamic Republic, the administration is giving some onlookers the impression that Iran will be welcomed back into the international banking system. This is something that leading administration officials had promised would not happen, as part of their effort to reassure the deal’s detractors, most of whom were already severely concerned about the possibility of Iran gaining access to as much as 150 billion dollars in assets that had previously been frozen in foreign banks.

Both in the case of these unfrozen assets and in the case of the new transactions between Iran and the West, the concern among many Western critics is that large portions of that money will end up being devoted to illicit activities, including clandestine nuclear work and terrorism.

Increasingly, another concern about Iran’s spending relates to its use not of violent terrorism but of cyberterrorism. As was highlighted last week by the indictment of seven Iran hackers accused of various attacks including one on a New York dam, the Islamic Republic’s capabilities with regard to hacking have grown substantially in recent years.

However, according to SC Magazine, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hossein Jaber Ansari recently issued a statement simply denying Iran’s culpability for the crimes of which the seven hackers have been accused. Ansari declared there was no evidence against them, yet provided no contravening evidence.

Iranian officials are often in the habit of denying foreign accusations, even when there is evidence from multiple sources supporting those accusations, as in the case of the past eight years’ findings by Ahmed Shaheed, the current UN special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in Iran. Without elaborating, Iran’s own domestic human rights monitor has dismissed all of Shaheed’s findings as politically motivated.

Such commentary also parallels the Iranian commentary upon the nuclear deal that preceded last week’s reports about American efforts to ramp up economic cooperation. In a speech coinciding with the new year celebration of Nowruz, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei accused the US of “aggression” through its economic policies and suggested that Iran was being unfairly persecuted.

Without going so far as to suggest that the Obama administration was acting in response to these comments, The Tower stated that the reintegration of Iran into the international banking would go a long way toward alleviating Khamenei’s complaints.