Iranian General Advocates Crypto Use for Skirting Sanctions: Report

Nikhilesh De and Leigh Cuen

An Iranian general is reportedly calling for the use of cryptocurrency to evade sanctions.

Saeed Muhammad, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ “Army of Guardians of the Islamic Revolution” (or Sepâh for short), a branch of the Iranian Armed Forces, said in a speech Wednesday that Iran should look to cryptocurrencies to bolster international investment despite heavy sanctions on the nation, reported Coinit.ir.

“We are demanding the creation of a more sophisticated mechanism (a commodities exchange) to bypass sanctions,” he said. “To circumvent sanctions, we must develop solutions such as the exchange of products and the use of cryptocurrencies with our partnerships [in other countries].”

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The news was first shared by Coinit.ir, a Farsi-language crypto news organization, on Telegram Wednesday. (Telegram is a popular app for sharing information in Iran, with Bloomberg describing it as “one of the most influential messaging platforms in the Middle East.”)

Iran has long been a target of U.S. sanctions, with leaders and other residents being placed under individual sanctions through the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Asset Control’s “Specially Designated Nationals” list. Sanctions are designed to isolate a nation from the global financial system, preventing international entities from investing in local projects or letting sanctioned nations easily trade with global partners.

The first sanctioned crypto addresses even belonged to Iranian nationals.

More recently, the Financial Action Task Force, the intergovernmental body that creates standards for combating financial crime worldwide, added Iran to its own blacklist due to alleged non-compliance with anti-terrorism financing requirements.

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Iran has been laying the groundwork for a broader use of cryptocurrencies. The national government had previously been working with blockchain startups to update its financial infrastructure, with private banks backing some projects and the central government going so far as to provide funding for at least one company.

Speculation that Iran would formally try to evade sanctions using cryptocurrency has long been rampant, but at least one source told CoinDesk in February 2019 that it would be “too suspicious” for the central bank to actually go ahead with any project in that area.

Editor’s note: Statements in this article have been translated from Farsi.

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