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On Thursday, Swiss authorities announced that they had processed a pilot transaction through the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA), a new payment channel that intends to ease the sale of food and medicine to Iran by Swiss companies. Work on this channel began in late 2018 following the Trump administration’s reimposition of secondary sanctions on Iran.

Expectations around the mechanism should be tempered with caution. The Trump administration dragged its feet for over a year before supporting the mechanism, despite clear evidence that sanctions were causing humanitarian harm. Additionally, Iranians might be reluctant to use the mechanism. There are concerns that some of the conditions imposed on the SHTA by the Treasury Department could be used as a part of a “fishing expedition” for information that could be used to intefere with routine trade.

But hidden in the mechanics of SHTA’s initial 2.3 million-euro transaction is an unprecedented provision that could help address growing concerns that the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign will be impossible to lift even in the aftermath of new negotiations with Iran.

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