Iran merges military financial institutions with bank under US sanctions

Move to reform the country’s banking system and financial markets comes as Tehran seeks to ease economic crisis

An Iranian man withdraws money from an ATM machine at a Bank Sepah in the capital Tehran on January 19, 2016. (AFP/Atta Kenare)
An Iranian man withdraws money from an ATM machine at a Bank Sepah in the capital Tehran on January 19, 2016. (AFP/Atta Kenare)

Iran’s official IRNA news agency said Saturday the country’s Central Bank has merged four banks and a credit union to reform the country’s banking system and financial markets.

The report announced the merger of Ansar, Mehr-e Eghtesad, affiliated with powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Ghavvamin, affiliated with the police, Hekmat-e Iranian Bank and the Kosar Credit Institute, affiliated with the defense ministry, with Bank Sepah, Iran’s first bank that is also affiliated with the army.

Bank Sepah has 1800 branches in Iran and others in Britain, France, Germany and Italy. The United States imposed sanctions on Bank Sepah in November after it withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Iran is in the grip of an economic crisis and has seen sporadic protests in recent months as officials try to downplay the effects of the restored US sanctions on Tehran.

The 2015 deal was aimed at preventing Tehran from building atomic weapons in exchange for economic incentives, including the lifting of previously imposed, punishing sanctions. The US pulled out of the agreement in May 2018 and has been urging the remaining signatories — the UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China — to abandon it as well.

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in the capital Tehran on September 22, 2018. (AFP/STR)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warns constantly that Iran has never abandoned its ambition to achieve a nuclear weapons capability. Last year, the Mossad spirited a huge haul of documents from what it said was Iran’s nuclear weapons archive, which Netanyahu said proved conclusively that Iran has lied to the world when claiming it has not been seeking to produce nuclear weapons.

Earlier this month, the deputy commander of the IRGC said Tehran has plans “to break America, Israel, and their partners and allies” in worldwide attacks.

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