Saeed Zarandi serves as Iran’s Assistant Minister of Industry, Trade, and Supply. According to Al-Fars, an Iranian news agency, Mr. Zarandi went on the record denouncing the US Congress’ attempts to block Iran’s access to cryptocurrencies and Bitcoin mining.
Iran has been under heavy trading and economic sanctions from the US for many years already. And that’s why the US Government would like to see Iran banned from the cryptosphere. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies provide Iran’s citizens with a way to do international business because cryptocurrencies remain unregulated in most of the world. In Mr. Zarandi’s view, Congress sees digital assets as a tool to evade the sanctions, so it’s trying to ensure that crypto doesn’t become a loophole. That, in turn, is also complicating Iran’s efforts to regulate crypto.
Mr. Zarandi recognized that the issue of cryptocurrencies is not yet settled in Iran. He explained that the Iranian government officials are working closely with the Central Bank of Iran so that they come up with legislation that will settle once and for all the use of cryptocurrencies within the country.
Pending bills and Iran’s position
There are bills in the House and the Senate since December 2018 that indeed targets Iran’s “illicit” financing resources, including digital assets. As of today, neither one has passed, so maybe there’s not that much interest in affecting the ban.
Last January the Central Bank of Iran published a plan for the creation of a national cryptocurrency. It would be similar to Venezuela’s Petro. But unlike Petro, Iran’s project has been mostly ignored by the cryptosphere, even domestically. The new Iranian token is called PayMon.
The Iran government itself seems to be a tiny bit confused about mining. Only a few days ago, the Iranian authorities confiscated about a thousand pieces of hardware used for mining Bitcoin. This happened just after the Ministry of Energy announced that they would cut the power off from suspected mining centers that would be taking advantage of the country’s cheap (and subsidized) electricity.
Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency markets could indeed disrupt the sanctions imposed on Iran. The point on Bitcoin, according to Satoshi Nakamoto himself, is precisely that. To create a new financial system that could do away with the power held by the world’s governments and traditional financial institutions. So if some authorities in the US government think that digital assets could beat the purpose of the sanctions, the chances are that they’re right. On the other hand, it remains unclear why the Iranian government is so ambivalent towards crypto when it’s clearly an advantage to its citizens and its domestic economy.
But what could they possibly do to stop it? The decentralization in Bitcoin and other blockchains prevents any single authority to impose its will on the network. They could probably forbid the US-based trade and exchange platforms to service Iranian users. But the most significant exchanges are in Asia, and they’re not showing any intention of going along with legislation that does not apply to its jurisdiction.
It’s a supreme case of irony that if the US tries to isolate Iran from crypto, it could end up being itself isolated from crypto if the global blockchain community regards it as unfair. That’s the power of the blockchain.
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