Entries in Iran (8)


Iran Behind Hacking of Banking Sites?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Recent hits on dozens of online banking sites may be the work of government-backed hackers in Iran, according to U.S. security officials. 

Since last September, hackers have cause slowdowns and other disruptions to widely-used banking sites.  Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Capital One, HSBC and Bank of America are among the sites that were hit. 

According to The New York Times, "the skill required to carry out attacks on this scale has convinced United States government officials and security researchers that they are the work of Iran, most likely in retaliation for economic sanctions and online attacks by the United States."

Copyright 2013 ABC News SRadio


Standard Chartered to Forfeit $227M to DOJ over Illegal Transactions

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Standard Chartered has agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in fines for transactions involving clients in Iran, Sudan, Libya and Burma.

The British banking giant broke New York state banking laws by moving money through the U.S. financial system on behalf of clients based in these countries -- a violation of American sanctions.

Prosecutors called Standard Chartered's conduct "flagrant and unacceptable."  They said the business should have been rejected.

Court records said the bank told customers living in Iran or the other sanctioned countries to use a London banking code or otherwise conceal the true nature of the transactions.

Standard Chartered has agreed to forfeit $227 million to the Justice Department.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Oil Prices Hit Nine-Month High

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Oil prices have risen following Sunday’s announcement by the Iranian oil ministry of a halt in oil exports to Britain and France in response to the European Union’s sanctions on the nation in January.

Oil prices hit a nine-month high reaching $105 a barrel and could increase further if Iran proceeds with its threat to halt oil exports to other European nations. Gas prices have increased to 18 cents a gallon in the past month.

"The increase in price is a direct result of European importers of Iranian oil looking round to find alternative sources," said Professor Paul Stevens from Chatham House, reports BBC.

However, the increase in price is also attributed in part to an improvement in the economies of China and the United States.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Analyst: 2012 Could Be the Worst Year Yet for Gas Prices

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- To the dismay of drivers across the country, 2011 went down in the record books as having the most expensive gasoline average ever -- $3.513 for the year, 72 cents per gallon higher than 2010′s yearly average, according to GasBuddy.

Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy’s senior petroleum analyst, projects that by Memorial Day, the national average will be between $3.86 to $4.13 per gallon, and that prices in 2012 will come close to or set new all-time highs. If that happens, drivers could spend $200 to $300 more for gas this year.

Inflation adjusted data from the Energy Department’s U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) confirmed that 2011 was a record year.  The real annual average for a gallon of regular gas last year hit $3.56, up from $2.90 in 2010, according to the EIA. From its data that begins in 1919, the previous record high was in 1981, at $3.45.

Of course, in 2008 gasoline prices had the longest stretch of $4 or more, but the yearly average was $3.24, according to GasBuddy’s data, which goes back to 2000. In 2008, gas prices slid from October to December 2008 to less than $2 a gallon nationally.

Over the past seven years, according to GasBuddy data, gasoline prices rise an average of 93 cents per gallon from the start of the new year to when they eventually peak the same year, DeHaan said.

“Typically, prices peak in the summer months, or around Memorial Day, as has been the case in 2010 and 2011,” he said.

An increase of 93 cents a gallon could mean average gas prices may rise more than $4 a gallon and could easily approach record highs, he said.  In 2004, gas prices had the largest price difference from the new year to their peak, when prices climbed $1.31 per gallon.

If such a gain occurred this year, that would mean the national average could rise to well over $4.25 a gallon, and some areas could see $5 a gallon.

“While that’s not very likely, it does represent a realistic worst case scenario,” he said.

DeHaan said he is traditionally reserved about forecasting oil prices, which hovered above $102 a barrel on Thursday.  But he said 2012 would almost certainly break all records, in part because of political tension with Iran over its nuclear program.

Iran has threatened to close a key oil passageway, the Strait of Hormuz, in possible retaliation for new economic sanctions from the U.S. and the European Union.  Iran holds the world’s fourth-largest proven oil reserves, and the world’s second-largest natural gas reserves, according to the EIA.

Should Iran become more hostile and cause a supply disruption, oil prices could soar to all-time highs and approach $175 to $200 a barrel, DeHaan said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Iran Oil Blockade Would Send Gas Prices Through the Roof

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Cutting off the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz, a small waterway that borders Iran, could disrupt roughly a third of the world’s tanker traffic and send oil prices skyrocketing, analysts say.

The Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi Tuesday threatened to close the strait if other countries sanction Iran’s crude exports because of the country’s nuclear ambitions.

Roughly 20 percent of the world’s oil supply travels through the strait, which is only 20 miles wide, making it a tempting target for an Iranian naval blockade.

Shutting down the Strait of Hormuz would be “easier than drinking a glass of water,” Iran’s naval chief, Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, said.

If Iran follows through on the threat, experts predict it could quickly translate into higher prices at the gas pump. Carl Larry, president of Oil Outlooks and Opinions, said that “depending on how long this goes on, by summer time we could be looking upwards of $5 a gallon.”

Such a price increase from today’s average price of $3.26 a gallon could prove disastrous, according to economists at Moody’s, who say it would divert $218 billion in consumer spending in a year from discretionary items such as restaurant meals, vacations and trips to the shopping mall straight into the gas tank.

For now, however, the move seems unlikely. The United States Navy has vowed to stop the Iranians, saying that any attempt by the Iranians to disrupt traffic or otherwise block off the Strait of Hormuz “will not be tolerated.”

The U.S. government has also yet to back away from plans to impose sanctions on Iran.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Iran Bans Google+, Calling It a US 'Spy Tool'

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Google's new social networking site, Google+, launched just about three weeks ago and it has already attracted over 10 million members around the world.  But Iran can only seem to imagine a negative about Google+, making it harder for Iranians to join.

Iran has blocked access to the new social networking site, calling it a new U.S. government spy tool on the Web.  Facebook and Twitter faced similar allegations before they were blocked, too.  

The decision appears to be another attempt to prevent young opponents of the regime from having online political discussions, planning protests and communicating with sympathizers abroad.  But many Iranians will use proxy websites to get around the restriction, and some have already joined Google+.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Speculation Flares over Iran's Political Future in Crumbling Economy

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(TEHRAN) -- The Iranian economy is weighed down by pressures and problems, externally, by sanctions punishing its nuclear program, and internally, by policies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his government. But is the hurt so bad it could take down the entire system? Or can this economic turnaround boost those already in power?

"Iran’s economy is in shambles. It’s now so mismanaged, they’re starting to worry about its impact on the regime,” says Karim Shirazi, an Iranian analyst in Dubai. ABC News agreed not to use his real name so that he could speak frankly without compromising himself or his company’s work in the Islamic Republic.

Analyst Jason Rezaian, however, says that if the Ahmadinejad regime can expand the economy, "the Islamic Republic could survive indefinitely."

Sanctions are biting harder than ever, but business still gets done through the leaks and loopholes. The poor economy is therefore not changing the regime’s behavior where it counts: on its accelerating enrichment of uranium. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s policies have been largely bad for business and made life harder for most Iranians. Together, that could get Ahmadinejad booted from office, but it probably won’t topple the regime.

Iran is still unable to effectively tap its wealth of oil money, given the bans on foreign investment in the energy sector. That, combined with overall mismanagement, makes Iran’s economy is “fundamentally unsustainable,” in the words of one analyst -- a “patient with many viruses.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Iran Scam to Evade Terror Sanctions Busted, NYC Official Says

Adam Gault/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Eleven companies, including Iran's state-sponsored shipping line, were indicted in New York City Monday for allegedly conspiring to evade U.S. sanctions on trade with Iran by duping major U.S. banks into funneling more than $60 million through the financial institutions in Manhattan.

"The defendants falsified the records of banks," said Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, who filed the indictment, in a conference call, "and in so doing the defendants deceived the Manhattan banks."

The conspiracy indictment seeks to enforce a U.S. ban on trading with Iran that was imposed because, according to the federal government, the country harbors terrorists and participates in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Iran's national shipping company is alleged to play a key logistical role in that nation's ballistic missile program as well as to serve as a conduit for supplying weapons to terrorist organizations.

The Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), its regional offices, affiliates, as well as five individuals were charged in the 319 count indictment with using corporate shells and aliases to "exploit the services of financial institutions located in Manhattan," said Vance.

According to the indictment, the state-sponsored shipping company allegedly sent or received scores of illegal payments through Manhattan banks by using alias names and corporate alter-egos in Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

According to the indictment, among the banks whose security measures were circumvented in the alleged conspiracy were JP Morgan Chase, Standard Chartered Bank, Bank of New York Mellon Corp, HSBC, Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas, Bank of America, Citibank, and Wachovia (now Wells Fargo).

Vance's office said in a statement that "the international shipping industry conducts business primarily in U.S. currency and therefore the firms involved in international shipping must have access to the U.S. financial system. Because IRISL and its sanctioned affiliates were banned from transacting with or through U.S. financial institutions, any use of their real names would have been detected and blocked by U.S. banks."

The Manhattan D.A.'s office noted that "IRISL has violated UN Security Council Resolutions by chartering vessels to transport IRISL cargo containers of ammunition and weaponry from Iran to countries linked to international terrorism."

The statement cited a case in November 2009 in which "36 Iranian cargo containers transporting hundreds of tons of weaponry, including rockets, missiles, mortars, and small arms, were interdicted en route to Syria via the intended port of Beirut."

"It is alleged that this shipment was intended for Hezbollah. This activity -- the provision of arms to terrorist organizations -- occurred during the time period charged in this conspiracy," Vance said.

"The point of this indictment is that sanctions exist...and to make sanctions work, they have to be enforced," he said. "The sanctions here are designed to shut IRISL down and to make it harder for IRISL and Iran" to achieve their goals.

Adam Szubin, the head of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), cited the pressure on IRISL to date as having a dramatic impact on Iran's shipping business, including the loss of maritime insurance, the default on loans and the seizure of ships. Szubin pointed out that his office's aggressive actions have put extreme pressure on the shipping firm which is a significant part of the structure providing Iran with the materials needed for development of weapons of mass destruction.

"As the private sector around the world increasingly turns its back on Iran's national shipping line, IRISL's efforts to evade international sanctions and increased scrutiny have grown more and more desperate," Szubin said.

Szubin also announced Monday the sanctioning of ten additional shipping companies and three other individuals. The sanctions prohibit trade and authorize the freezing of assets of companies doing business with companies that harbor terrorists or proliferate weapons of mass destruction.

Still, Vance acknowledged the difficulty officials face in attempting to extradite the newly indicted individuals.

"Will anyone ever face judgment in New York courts? Possibly," he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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