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trump eu JONATHAN ERNST/AFP/Getty Images

The New Tyranny of the Dollar

Among the many legacies that US President Donald Trump received from his predecessors is a "secondary sanctions" regime that allows the US to bar malign actors from most of the global economy. Under Trump, however, this sophisticated set of tools has become a bludgeon with which to threaten allies.

BERLIN – Donald Trump may not want to launch wars in the Middle East, but that doesn’t mean he’s getting the United States out of the regime-change business. His administration has made it clear that it wants crippling sanctions on Iran to serve the same purpose as the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Since withdrawing in May from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Trump has been looking for ways to turn up the pressure on the Iranian regime. On November 4, US sanctions on the country’s vital oil industry will go into force. And the administration wants to go even further, by imposing secondary sanctions on other countries with the goal of shutting Iran out of the dollar-based global economy entirely.

To that end, the US wants to bar Iranian banks from the Society for World Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) and the global payments system that it oversees. This would effectively send Iran back to a pre-globalization dark age. The problem for Trump and his advisers, though, is that SWIFT is not a US institution. It is registered and based in Belgium, which, along with the European Union’s 27 other member states, supports the JCPOA.

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