In an unexpectedly strong diplomatic escalation, one day after China agreed to vote alongside the US (and Russia) during Monday’s United National Security Council vote in passing the watered down North Korea sanctions, the US warned that if China were to violate or fail to comply with the newly imposed sanctions against Kim’s regime, it could cut off Beijing’s access to both the US financial system as well as the “international dollar system.”
Speaking at CNBC’s Delivering Alpha conference on Tuesday, Steven Mnuchin said that China had agreed to “historic” North Korean sanctions during Monday’s United Nations vote. “We worked very closely with the U.N. I’m very pleased with the resolution that was just passed. This is some of the strongest items. We now have more tools in our toolbox, and we will continue to use them and put additional sanctions on North Korea until they stop this behavior.”
Hacking group Shadow Brokers has released a data dump allegedly stolen from the NSA detailing the agency’s ability to hack international banks, including the SWIFT network, via Windows PCs and servers used for global financial transfers.
This followed our take from two months ago, predicting with uncanny accuracy the events of November 13, when we said that “as the need to ratchet up the fear factor grows, expect more such reports of asylum seekers who have penetrated deep inside Europe, and whose intentions are to terrorize the public. Expect a few explosions thrown in for good effect” and we added that “since everyone knows by now “not to let a crisis go to waste” the one thing Europe needs is a visceral, tangible crisis, ideally with chilling explosions and innocent casualties. We expect one will be provided on short notice.“
The BRICS members have kicked off consultations on an alternative to the global SWIFT system that processes about 1.8 billion financial messages annually, said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.
The BRICS system for the transmission of financial information is expected to protect the member countries from any possible disruptions, and provide better security.
“The finance ministers and executives of the BRICS central banks are negotiating … setting up payment systems and moving on to settlements in national currencies. SWIFT or not, in any case we’re talking about … a transnational multilateral payment system that would provide greater independence, would create a definite guarantee for[BRICS – ed.]countries on risks associated with arbitrary decisions …made by countries that have current payment systems under their jurisdiction,”Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told RIA in an interview published Wednesday.
Back in February, Russia detailed a SWIFT alternative that would link 91 domestic banks to the Central Bank of Russia.
On the one hand, the plan represented yet another move towards global de-dollarization but on the other, was borne out of necessity when Russia began to believe it may be expelled from SWIFT as punishment for its support of rebels in Ukraine. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned of “unlimited consequences” if the West decided on a punitive SWIFT freeze.
One of the recurring threats used by the western nations in their cold (and increasingly more hot) war with Russia, is that Putin’s regime may be locked out of all international monetary transactions when Moscow is disconnected from the EU-based global currency messaging and interchange service known as SWIFT (a move, incidentally, which SWIFT lamented as was revealed in October when we reported that it announces it “regrets the pressure” to disconnect Russia).
So the news this week that Russia has launched its own ‘SWIFT’-alternative, linking 91 credit institutions initially, suggests de-dollarization is considerably further along than many expected (especially as Russia dumps US Treasuries at a record pace).
While nations around the world continue to de-dollarize, Russia signed into law its anti-crisis plan today (though details will not be released until tomorrow). Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, however, was quite vociferous in some of his threats, warning The West that the “Russian response – economically and otherwise – will know no limits” if Russia is cut off from the SWIFT payments system. Additionally, as Royce, the chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, explains Iran nuclear talks “appear to be stalemated,” just days after Iran completes its de-dollarization and news today, that Russia and Iran plan to create a mutual account for bilateral payments in national currencies.
With ever louder chatter that the west will force Russia to exit the global currency messaging and interchange service that is SWIFT – essentially locking it out of transacting in “developed” currencies – and with correspondingly louder retorts by Russia that it is prepared and would welcome such a move as it would merely force it to abandon the petrodollar and allign even closer with China, there was one entity whose take on the matter had been largely ignnored. SWIFT itself. Surprisingly, in a press release issued this morning,the member-owned cooperative, reveals that not only has it received “calls to disconnect institutions and entire countries from its network – most recently Israel and Russia”, but that it regrets “the pressure” as the “surrounding media speculation, both of which risk undermining the systemic character of the services that SWIFT provides its customers around the world.”
… the main suspects are the former heads of the Mossad and the Shin Bet, respectively Israel’s foreign and domestic intelligence agencies.Netanyahu is said to believe that the two, Meir Dagan and Yuval Diskin, wanted to torpedo plans being drawn up by him and Ehud Barak, the defence minister, to hit Iranian nuclear sites.
Update: as we hit print, we see headlines that the UK will cooperate with the US on bilateral agreement to release oil stocks. Crude down big on the news, which is merely an advance move ahead of almost inevitable war with Iran, simply to make the spike more palatable.
The push to get Iran to do something terminally irrational (now that USS Enterprise in its final tour of duty is almost on location just off the side of CVN-70 Lincoln and CVN-72 Vinson in the Arabian Sea, where the US will shortly have not one, not two, but three aircraft carriers) is now in its final stretch. As AP reported earlier, Iran has been now entirely cut off from the global financial system, as that anchor of international financial transactions, SWIFT, has just taken Iran off the grid. This leaves Iran with just three options for international trade: making gold into a fully convertible currency, barter, or exchanging Rials for Renminbi and other local currencies.
From the AP:
The SWIFT global financial transaction service said Thursday that it was cutting ties with Iranian banks that are subject to European Union sanctions aimed at discouraging the country from developing nuclear weapons.
The action effectively enforces EU sanction because the world’s financial transactions are impossible without using SWIFT, and it will go a long way toward isolating Iran financially.
The company’s name stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. It is a banking hub crucial to oil, financial transactions and other trades.
In a statement, SWIFT said the EU decision “prohibits companies such as SWIFT to continue to provide specialized financial messaging services to EU-sanctioned banks.”
“Disconnecting banks is an extraordinary and unprecedented step for SWIFT,” Lazaro Campos, chief executive of SWIFT, said. “It is a direct result of international and multilateral action to intensify financial sanctions against Iran.”
In other words: Iran, please do your worst. And just to make it easier, the US has now stacked an entire armada of easy targets in close vicinity, which not even a naive fool can mistake anymore for prewar preparations.
Here is what the naval picture in the Arabian Sea looked like most recently, where courtesy of Stratfor we can see that not only is CVN-65 full steam ahead to its final date with history somewhere off the shores of Iran, but that LHD8 Makin Island crossed the Straits of Hormuz recently. Just because.
Virtually the entire non-parked naval fleet will be in the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf in the next 4-6 days, where 3 aircraft carriers and one big-deck amphibious warfare ship are just waiting for the order.
Unwilling to back down from the growing criticism that his foreign policy would be “dangerous,” Ron Paul told voters in Iowa that western sanctions against Iran are “acts of war” that are likely to lead to an actual war.
Paul said that Iran would be justified in responding to sanctions by blocking the Straits of Hormuz, adding that the country blocking the strategically important strait is “so logical” since they have no other recourse.
He then compared the situation to China blocking off the Gulf of Mexico to trade.