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Ayatollah Blasts Zarif Comments As MP Talks Of His Impeachment

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif delivers a speech over a bill to counter terrorist financing to parliament in Tehran, October 7, 2018

Following implicit criticism of foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif by the conservative head of Iran’s Judiciary, a member of parliament says that Zarif’s impeachment process has begun.

On Monday, the Judiciary's Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani dismissed Zarif’s recent comments about high level of money laundering in Iran, describing it as a “stab right into the heart” of the Islamic Republic ruling system.

On Tuesday, the conservative Tasnim news agency, close to revolutionary guards, quoted a member of parliament as saying that a proposal for Zarif’s impeachment is being prepared to be put to a vote. It is not clear when the plan will be put in motion.

Earlier on November 11, Zarif had said that those who profit billions of dollars from money laundering are spending millions of it to prevent the passage of the bills requiring more financial transparency.

An international transparency watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has demanded that Iran should adhere to anti-money-laundering standards and enact laws to prevent financing of terrorism.

The foreign minister went on to accuse state-owned agencies that he refrained from naming, of mounting the campaign against President Hassan Rouhanis' proposed legislation known as Palermo Bills.

"We cannot challenge the scenes set by these wealthy and mighty state-organs,” he said.

The comments triggered a wave of enraged responses from the conservative camp dominating Iran.

Zarif was summoned for more explanation to parliament’s (Majles) influential National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, forcing him to reiterate that he had not accused any state-run institution of money laundering.

The adoption of anti-money laundering and terrorism financing laws by Iran can help its standing with European countries that have pledged to help Iran continue doing trade despite U.S. sanctions.

MPs opposing transparency laws holding slogans in parliament on October 07, 2018.
MPs opposing transparency laws holding slogans in parliament on October 07, 2018.

Nevertheless, Zarif's clarification was not good enough for his opponents. Soon, the pressure on him increased to the extent that widely circulated rumors said he has already resigned.

These rumors reached a level that the spokesman of the foreign ministry, Bahram Ghasemi had to react on Monday in his press briefing.

“For sure, I reject this rumor. These are deliberately manufactured, processed and spread by certain circles. Mr. Zarif is energetically busy with his work. He was in parliament yesterday and today he is hosting a foreign delegation”.

Despite Zarif's clarification and Ghasemi's strong denial, the head of the Islamic Republic' judiciary decided on Monday to join the chorus of the conservatives condemning the foreign minister's remark.

"If there is huge money laundering in the country, why did you not report it to the judiciary?" state-run Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) cited Sadeq Amoli Larijani as saying.

Carefully avoiding mentioning Zarif by name, the mid-ranking Ayatollah maintained, "The enemy's best tool is economic pressure--- In such situation officials are expected not to make double-edged comments that could be misused by the enemy."

Furthermore, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani called upon Iranian officials to avoid unwarranted remarks.

The opponents of the Palermo Bills argue that their implementation is a threat to Iran’s security. Analysts say the real fear in circles loyal to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is that adhering to the financial transparency requirements would prevent Iran from financially supporting the Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas militant groups.

The Islamic Republic along with North Korea are the only countries on the Financial Action Task Force blacklist, but the Paris-based organization has suspended counter-measures against Tehran while it works on reforms.

The FATF has given Tehran until February to either endorse the UNTOC or be added to its “blacklist” of countries refusing to cooperate in the fight against money laundering and financing terrorism. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is urging Tehran to endorse the bills before the deadline set by FATF.