Open letter to Nordea Bank concerning the sanctions on Iran

Open letter to Nordea Bank concerning the sanctions on Iran

September 29, 2019

By Jan Oberg


Below please find a letter I wrote more than 3 months ago to the Nordic bank, Nordea – present in roughtly 20 countries around the world.

Since then, I have been waiting for an answer, but none has arrived.
I believe it should have been possible for Chairman of the Nordea board, Mr Thorbjörn Magnusson, to have responded by now.

As this is not the case and I have no reason to expect an answer will arrive from him, I hereby make the matter be known to a wider circle of people.

Should anybody in the Swedish/Nordic press be willing to take it up, it would be good. But I also do not expect that given the political correctness practised, not the least around the issue of Iran and the primary and secondary sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran and on everybody else, Europe in particular.

PS You must read the article on the link at the very beginning of this letter to understand the issue.

Styrelseordförande Nordea
Thorbjörn Magnusson
Smålandsgatan 17
SE – 105 71 Stockholm

Lund, Sweden, June 11, 2019

Dear Mr. Thorbjörn Magnusson

The reason I write to you is explained in this article:

As explained therein, what Nordea is part of is a behaviour vis-a-vis Iran and its people that is not only a violation of international law but also unethical from a humanitarian viewpoint.

In 2015, the nuclear deal – JCPOA – was concluded between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council + Germany. The agreement is embedded in UN SC Resolution 2231 and, therefore, the fact that the United States under the Trump administration has withdrawn from this deal signifies a breach of international law.

The US has introduced secondary sanctions i.e. imposes extraterritorial sanctions on countries that do not follow the US and abstain from all economic transactions with Iran. In effect, the US insists on having US laws apply to sovereign countries such as Sweden and enterprises such as yours.

Those are the sanctions that Nordea evidently follows when, as I document, it prevents me from sending a small sum of money to the Iranian Red Crescent in the situation where there is a very serious humanitarian emergency in the country affecting, according to the UN, 10 million people.

One may want – whether reasonably or not, lawful or not – to punish Iran and its people politically and with sanctions. But to include in such punishment also purely humanitarian aid to disaster victims – indisputably innocent of the ongoing international conflict between Iran and the US (something that de facto dates back to the CIA-instigated and -led coup d’etat against the Iranian democratically elected Prime Minister, Dr. Mossadegh, in 1953) – can be termed unethical.

Collective punishment of a people is a violation of international law. To punish innocent citizens also by actively preventing them from receiving humanitarian aid when in need is ethically indefensible.

Nordea does that, as you’ll see from the article, seemingly on its own initiative.

However, had it not done so by itself, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs would probably have instructed (if it hasn’t already) that Swedish corporations/enterprises shall obey US law in this case.

There are now, I believe, as many as 15 international reports based on comprehensive international on-site monitoring that state unequivocally that Iran has met its obligations in the JCPOA point-by-point. There has not been one violation of its provisions.

The United States is the only signatory state to the diplomatic agreement that has violated international law and also practices collective punishment of an innocent people (no matter what one may think of the Iranian government, religious leadership and Iran’s policies).

If I have understood the matter correctly, Nordea adheres voluntarily to this US policy. What I would appreciate very much – both personally as a client over more than 30 years of your bank but also as a matter of principle and business policies to stand up to public scrutiny – is that you will have the kindness to explain in writing to me why this is the policies of Nordea.

It will also provide you with a fair opportunity to correct me if I am wrong in interpreting your policies as told to me over the phone by a Nordea employee.

As a genuinely independent and internationally experienced researcher over about four decades with some knowledge of both American foreign policy and also working in Iran, I intend to pursue this indeed complex issue in public writings and alert the general public, to the best of my own and foundation’s abilities.

The well-being and indeed survival of millions of fellow human beings in Iran seem to be at stake.

I hope, therefore, that you or – better – the board of Nordea will find it appropriate and useful to get the facts and your policies pertaining to Iran straight on the table at this stage.

Finally and before ending this letter, let me point out the possible longterm perspective of the sanctions which Nordea adheres to as a political choice:

There were 13 years of US-instigated sanctions on neighbouring Iraq. They were harsh and cost more civilian lives than the military invasion, occupation and administration beginning 2003. I personally did fact-finding there in 2002 and 2003.

They have been analysed in details by Hans Graf von Sponeck, a TFF Associate and former TFF board member who was also deputy secretary-general of the UN for more than 30 years. He was at the helmet of the UN Oil for Food program for about two years and then resigned from the UN with the comment that he would not preside over a genocide there. He has written a comprehensive, authoritative study of those sanctions on Iraq.

With this example, it can very well be concluded that – if applied sufficiently tightly and for long enough time – economic sanctions will have consequences comparable to weapons of mass destruction.

We do not yet know how the a-symmetric conflict with Iran will play out. Iran’s military expenditures are a fraction of those of the Middle Eastern countries that are allied against it, Israel and Saudi Arabia first and foremost, but they are also only about US$ 12 billion (and falling) while those of the US – that threatens to destroy Iran – range about US$ 700-1100 billion depending on what budget items are included. It can safely be concluded that Iran does not – is not able – to pose a threat to the Western world.

There may or may not be a military war on Iran. But there is a political, psychological, media and economic war going on against it already. Your bank participates actively in the latter.

If that lasts several years into the future and are not offset by other countries resuming normal economic transactions with Iran, the destruction from the outside of Iran’s economy and the 85 million Iranian citizens’ livelihood and well-being will, beyond a doubt, be a fact.

And if so, Nordea will be complicit in such a crime.


Jan Oberg, dr.hc., docent
Co-founder and director
The Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, TFF, in Lund

Vegagatan 25
S – 224 57 Lund, Sweden
Ph +46 738 525200

8 Responses to "Open letter to Nordea Bank concerning the sanctions on Iran"

  1. Pingback: The West-Iran Asymmetric Conflict: Will Iran be Bombed? – Counter Information

  2. Pingback: The West-Iran Asymmetric Conflict: Will Iran be Bombed? |

  3. Pingback: Unless miracles happen, Iran will soon be bombed | The Transnational

  4. oleajorngmailcom   September 30, 2019 at 7:32 am

    This is important, Jan, and you speaking up can bring this sort of embargo through private firms to public attention. I hope this matter could be researched by people in the know, because I fear that the financial bullying is spreading.

  5. Bente Petersen   September 29, 2019 at 6:45 pm

    Speaking up where ever one can is a must… thank Ian for doing so.

  6. Mark Andersen   September 29, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    How these big banks still have customers is beyond me. Even in the US small local banks is an options for the average customer and many of the small banks practice a real social responsibility on the local level and invest conservatively in less destructive venues.

    • JO   September 29, 2019 at 2:52 pm

      Very true and good. I agree with you, Mark Andersen. But this is not the place to discuss banks as such or all the other problems they cause. My concern in this is, very clearly, the sanctions on Iran and its innocent people and the horrible acceptance of US laws on Swedish territory. I’d be grateful if that could be the main focus of comments, criticism and whatever under this article.

      • Mark Andersen   October 9, 2019 at 9:48 pm

        I agree. The latter part of my comment seem to have been lost in editing or maybe just a glitch. I wrote st. to the effect of boycotting judiciously might serve to aid the Iranian people in this time of need. As to how one goes about bringing the US Empire down I am at a loss but for starters I wish Denmark would leave NATO asap.

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