April 27, 2011
By Avi Jorisch
As the United States and its allies continue to pressure Iran through targeted economic sanctions in an effort to force the Islamic Republic to abandon what is suspected to be a nuclear weapons program, Asian countries such as China, South Korea and Malaysia are aiding and abetting Iran's nuclear program by providing it with access to international financial markets and the ability to purchase dual-use nuclear materiel.
As a high-ranking Iranian customs official pointed out this month, Iran is increasingly dependent on Asian imports for the health of its economy. If the international sanctions regime is to have a chance of succeeding, Asian countries will have to close Iranian banks openly operating in their jurisdictions to curb the Islamic Republic's ability to obtain illicit commodities; otherwise, the sanctions will ultimately fail.
The United Nations, the European Union and the United States have taken steps to isolate Iranian banks that are suspected of financially facilitating the purchase of illegal goods via the international financial system. The United Nations, for example, has blacklisted four Iranian financial institutions for their role in proliferating weapons of mass destruction - the Sepah, Melli and Mellat banks, and the First East Export Bank of Iran. Three of the four operate in Asia: Bank Melli is in Hong Kong, First East Export Bank in Labuan, Malaysia, and Bank Mellat in Seoul, South Korea.