BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
The warped State Department-hatched Turkey-Armenia Protocols did not yield the necessary results for the US, nor have efforts to strong-arm Armenia into making dangerous concessions on the Karabakh front, so the US has renewed an old “concern” by alleging that Iran is using Armenia to for financial transactions that might violate international sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program.
An exclusive report by Reuters Tuesday, citing a nebulous “Western intelligence report” and quoting anonymous diplomatic sources, claimed that Iran is seeking financial alternatives “in countries that do not work according to the dictates of the West” is looking to expand its banking foothold in Armenia to allegedly deceive Western governments that have been attempting to curtail Iranian banking activities worldwide to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.
The so-called “Western intelligence report,” according to Reuters, has singled out the Yerevan-based ACBA Credit Agricole Bank, one of the largest in Armenia, as one of Iran’s principal targets. Reuters also spoke to an anonymous Western UN diplomat who confirmed that ACBA was “a bank that has come up in connection with Iran.” He declined to provide details of any potentially illicit ACBA transactions linked to Iran, said Reuters.
This fracas has prompted the Armenian Central Bank to issue a blunt denial, echoing earlier statements by ACBA officials, who in the Reuters report, vehemently denied the allegations that the financial institution is being used by Iran for illicit activities.
“The Central Bank of Armenia obligates all banks and financial institutions in the Republic of Armenia to scrutinize their transactions, in order to avoid any possible involvement in transactions considered unacceptable by the international community,” said a statement issued by the CBA.
“We don’t have any relationship with Iran,” The ACBA chief executive Stepan Gishian told Reuters. “We never have, we don’t now and furthermore we don’t plan on becoming a channel for financing Iran. What you’re saying is complete nonsense.”
Furthermore, recent news reports indicate that Armenia has been following the mandates set forth by the sanctions imposed both on Iran and Syria, since Syrian and Iranian nationals of Armenian descent have experienced difficulty opening bank accounts in Armenia, because of their citizenship. This is especially disheartening to Armenians who are leaving Syria due to the crisis there and are experiencing hurdles in establishing themselves in Armenia.
The Reuters reports does state that Turkey and the United Arab Emirates remain Iran’s largest banking connections, but claims that due to US pressure, especially the government of Turkey has become more vigilant in its business with Iran.
Reportedly, President Serzh Sarkisian was cautioned by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit in June to Armenia about US concerns over the Iran’s interests in Armenia.
Iran remains one of Armenia’s largest trading partners with a reported $1 billion in trade. Asbarez has extensively reported about the intense desire by Armenia and Iran to strengthen their strategic partnership through varied projects, including the construction of an oil pipeline and a highway that would connect Iran’s port of Bandar Abbas with Batumi in Georgia, thus providing a direct link for Armenia to a seaport.
Evidently, this organic neighborly and centuries-old relationship between Armenia and Iran does not sit well with the US and its Western allies, who are keen on tightening the noose around Iran’s neck because of concerns over its nuclear program and be damned whatever stands in their way.
However justified those concerns might be, Armenia should not be penalized by the US, which in its efforts to police the world, is bullying nations to conform to its standards.
If the US scrutinized its own domestic financial system as meticulously as it does other nations’ perhaps the loopholes that allowed for the collapse of the banking system and wide-spread corruption in this country would have been avoided.
Moreover, if the US went as far as to caution Armenia, it has not lifted a finger to force Turkey and Azerbaijan to lift their blockade of Armenia, which has been in place since 1993 and in international legal circles is considered an act of aggression or war. Instead the US has concocted convoluted schemes—the Protocols and policy on Karabakh—that abets Turkey to continue its denial of the Genocide and face history and diminishes the sacred principle of self-determination.
The Reuter report is a harbinger of things to come. The failed approaches by the US to address concerns in the South Caucasus have now taken on a worrisome tone. How far will the US go to force its misplaced policies on other nations, especially Armenia?