For the past two years, members of the international community have worked closely together to pressure Iran to halt its pursuit of nuclear weapons. In particular, the United States and the European Union have enacted increasingly tough sanctions, which have sent Iran's currency -- the rial -- plummeting by some 80 percent. Unfortunately, one important banking center in Europe has consistently undermined these efforts by refusing to adopt the very sanctions that have had the most impact -- Switzerland. It is time for Switzerland to start behaving like a responsible member of the international community and enact the same measures that have been adopted by its European neighbors and international allies.
Unlike its EU neighbors, Switzerland (which is not a member) has refused to sanction Iran's central bank, despite knowing its fundamental role in funneling money directly into the hands of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It's as if the Swiss are unaware that the IRGC is a terrorist organization, responsible for commanding Iran's nuclear and terrorist activities, and guilty of egregious human rights abuses inside Iran.
Switzerland has also refused to join its EU neighbors in adopting a ban on imports of Iranian oil, despite the demonstrable evidence that the oil embargo by the West has significantly curtailed Iran's ability to access hard currency to fund its nefarious activities. This allowed Geneva-based oil trader Vitol to buy 2 million barrels of fuel oil from Iran in August 2012 and profit from its sale to Chinese traders.
The end result of all this is that the Iranian regime maintains access to an important trade and financial center, and capital to fund its nuclear and terrorist activities. This is unacceptable, and what is particularly galling is that Switzerland is quick to take the moral high ground in situations when its economic interests are not at stake. Switzerland was more than happy to replicate, for example, the full-range of sanctions imposed against Libya and Syria.
What makes Iran different? The answer is simple: Libya and Syria have a limited market for machinery, banking and luxury goods. Switzerland's so-called "neutrality" in this context is little more than thinly-veiled cover to allow its companies to act with impunity when it comes to business with Iran.
Ceresola, for example, a tunneling technology firm, signed a contract worth over €1 billion in 2010 with the Rahab Engineering Establishment, a known IRGC entity. The same year, Credit Suisse was fined $536 million for egregious banking violations, instructing employees not to "mention the name of the Iranian bank in payment orders."