While speaking truth to power is not the sort of thing one expects the executive of a leading bank to indulge in, we’ll take it where we can find it. Here‘s the Group Director of the Standard Chartered Bank responding to the charges, leveled by New York State bank regulator Ben Lawsky, that SCB was involved in financial dealings with Iran to the tune of $250 billion:
"You f—king Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with the Iranians?"
This, by the way, is cited in the complaint filed by the state of New York: Lawsky apparently thought it was incriminating enough to include. There is plenty of evidence this case has little to do with the sanctions, and more to do with bank protectionism: SCB is a British bank, and the city of New York is now engaged in a strenuous campaign to lure the high finance crowd away from London and back to the Big Rotten Apple. The Group Manager, who goes unnamed in the complaint, is asking the right question, which apparently Senor Lawsky isn’t prepared to answer – so I will.
We think we’re the center of the world: that’s what "American exceptionalism" is all about. Let’s say the Russian government decided that no one was to trade with, say, Italy, and the Duma passed legislation mandating economic sanctions. No one would pay the least amount of attention, except to mock the pretensions of the wounded Russian bear. When we do it, however, everyone is supposed to sit up and take notice. And of course they do: after all, the US is the epicenter of world financial markets, and New York is …well, where Wall Street is located. So the New York Department of Financial Services can act as if it’s the agency of a sovereign government, which in a very real sense it is. Aside from having one of the highest tax rates in the country, and aspiring to regulate the caloric intake of some of its residents, New York officials have lately moved to extend their reach internationally: the NYPD has sounded the alarm over the alleged "terrorist threat" posed by Iranian diplomatic personnel in the US:
"Mitchell Silber, the NYPD’s director of intelligence analysis, told Congress that Iranians may be using ‘diplomatic cover’ to conduct ‘hostile reconnaissance’ on America’s biggest city.
"Silber cycled a string of incidents where law enforcement questioned Iranians, who turned out to be working with the Iranian mission to the United Nations or otherwise tied to the government.
"He said the Iran-backed Hezbollah also has a presence in the New York area. ‘Iran and/or Hezbollah remain deeply committed to striking against Israeli and Western targets and they are willing to deploy a variety of methods in order to do so,’ he said, citing recent attacks ‘plausibly linked to Iran’ in Georgia, India and Thailand.
"’Given the recent alleged Iranian directed plot against a foreign diplomat here in Washington, Iran’s increasingly bellicose rhetoric and its recent as well as long history of sponsoring terrorist attacks abroad, the NYPD must remain vigilant in attempting to detect and disrupt any attack by Iran or its proxies,’ Silber told the House Homeland Security Committee.
"He said authorities have interviewed at least 13 people since 2005 with ties to Tehran who were seen taking pictures of city landmarks."
Almost no one from out of town takes pictures of New York City’s landmarks – like, say, the Statue of Liberty, or at some cultural event. Why, it’s unheard of! This is certainly suspicious behavior on the part of those Eye-ranians, and I’m glad the NYPD is taking time off from their important work of stopping and frisking non-white New Yorkers on the streets, and is on the job. What Officer Silber’s testimony lacks in geographical expertise – alleged Iranian activities in Georgia (no, not that Georgia!), India, and Thailand hardly make the case Tehran is "deeply committed" to blowing up the Empire State Building – is more than made up for in sheer gall.
Here we have a glorified state trooper acting as if he’s Henry Kissinger, making Profound Pronouncements on matters usually reserved for the US Department of State. In reality, Hezbollah – a Lebanese organization – has never targeted the continental US. If Silber is so concerned about suspicious foreigners taking photos in the New York metropolitan area, then what did he and his "intelligence" division do about these guys?
Lawsky exhibits the same sort of pretensions, describing SCB in the complaint as a "rogue institution" – you know, like Iran is a "rogue state" because it defies Washington’s imperial will.
New York state and city government officials seem to hold a grudge against the Iranians, although I can’t imagine why that might be. So determined are they to start a war with Tehran that they’ve even launched their own independent foreign policy. How long before Governor Andrew Cuomo inaugurates his very own State Department?
New York looms large on the national political scene, as Gen. Wesley Clark has pointed out, and New Yorkers are world-famous for their pushiness, and their brazen rudeness, not to mention the delusion that their own city is the center of the known universe. Isn’t it high time we non-New Yorkers pushed back? To paraphrase that SCB official:
You f—king New Yorkers. Who are you to drag us, the rest of the country, into yet another unjustified destructive and costly war in the Middle East?
If Cuomo, Lasky, and Silber want war with Iran, let them send the New York state National Guard over there and leave the rest of us out of it.