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article imageOp-Ed: U.S. accuses Iraq of helping Iran avoid sanctions

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By Ken Hanly     Aug 19, 2012 in Politics
Baghdad - The U.S. complains that Iraq is helping Iran avoid sanctions by obtaining U.S. dollars at Iraqi central bank auctions and even shipping Iranian oil through Iraq.
An article in the New York Times claims that there are financial institutions and oil smuggling operations that are enabling Iran to obtain dollars needed to make payments and work around sanctions imposed by the U.S. and others because of Iran's nuclear program.
While Obama has barred one Iraqi bank from access to the U.S. banking system because of its dealings with Iran the Obama administration is not anxious for an outright fight with the Iraqi government led by Nouri al-Maliki. According to the Times however U.S. officials have held private talks with Iraqi officials during which they have lodged complaints with Iraq about the support being given to Iran. Any attempt to force the issue by the U.S. could result in a strong anti-American reaction in Iraq. However the U.S. was apparently able to convince Iraq not to let Iran use its airspace to ferry supplies to Syria.
In response to a question from the Times David Cohen the under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence in the Treasury Department submitted a written statement that said that Iran might seek to escape financial sanctions by using Iraqi financial institutions but added: “...we will pursue, and are actively pursuing, efforts to prevent Iran from evading U.S. or international financial sanctions, in Iraq or anywhere else.” The Times reports that anonymous officials and oil experts say that Iraqi officials turn a blind eye to the financial transactions and smuggling that goes on with Iran. The paper further claims that people close to al-Maliki directly profit from these transactions. The New York Times often is used to publicize what the Obama administration is thinking and believes. Sources are quite often anonymous but described in ways that make them look impressive.“Maliki’s government is right in the middle of this,” said one former senior American intelligence official who now does business in Iraq.
Through Iraqi Central Bank auctions Iranians are able to move cash through the auction and then into regional financial centers in Dubai, the UAE, and Jordan and from there into the international banking system.
The Iraqi government has increasing trade with Iran. The value of trade with Iran is now estimated to be as high as 11billion U.S. a year. The majority in Iraq are Shia Muslims. The U.S. led overthrow of the Sunni-led Hussein regime resulted finally in a the Shia majority taking power and close relations between Iran and Iraq in spite of U.S. hostility towards Iran.
As well as financial transactions, there is considerable smuggling of goods into and out of Iran. Some Iranian oil may be shipped through Iraqi ports and exported. No doubt countries such as Russia and China also may help Iran avoid sanctions.
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This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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