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Firebrand Cleric Says ‘Sedition 2019’ Threatens Khamenei

Iranian conservative clerics Ahmad Alamolhoda (2nd L), Ahmad Emami Kashani (C) and Kazem Sedighi (2nd R), in a gathering in Mashhad, undated.

Firebrand cleric Ahmad Alamolhoda says if Tehran joins international conventions against money laundering and funding terrorism it will pave the way for "Sedition 2019"; a new codename for hardliners to raise alarm about a perceived U.S. threat to topple Iran’s rulers.

The term is a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's statement in mid- December when he warned state and military officials that the United States might be planning to take advantage of the Islamic Republic's weakness and push for regime change in Iran in 2019. His rhetoric indicated grave concern about recurring protests similar to the unrest that challenged the Islamic Republic's legitimacy and threatened its existence in early 2018.

Alamolhoda, Khamenei's representative to Khorasan Province and the Friday Prayer leader of Mashad, warned on 28 December that "The enemy is planning to push Iran into a bottleneck in 2019."

He further elaborated that "The United States is planning to find an excuse and impose an economic embargo on us in 2019."

Alamolhoda said that the ratification of the four bills against money laundering and funding terrorism called for by the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will pave the way for the takeover of the Islamic Republic by seculat elements who would target the Supreme Leader in collaboration with deem-witted elites."

He likened the situation to the "Sedition of 2009," another Islamic Republic jargon to describe the aborted attempt by reformists to take over the government in 2009. The move was brutally suppressed by the regime after an engineered election believed to be overtly rigged by IRGC as reformist politicians including former parliament Deputy-Speaker Mohammad Reza Khatami have charged.

Former Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi had also said in June that "The enemy is planning a sedition for 2018 or 2019 that would mainly target the Supreme Leader."

Alamolhoda described the parliament majority's support for FATF "a U.S. conspiracy" and called the MPs who voted for the four bills against money laundering and funding terrorism "a number of misinformed individuals," and said "the U.S. and its European partners have dictated the idea of ratifying these bills."

Iranian hardliners have said openly that they fear the ratification of these bills might prevent Iran's financial support for Lebanese Hezbollah and other similar groups in the Palestinian territories, Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere.

However, following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, EU has vowed to provide Iran with assistance to facilitate its banking operations and help Iran circumvent U.S. sanctions. EU has told Iran that meeting FATF requirements are essential for Europe to convince Iran's trade partners that Tehran is not going to fund terrorism.

The four bills have been ratified by the Majles (parliament) in spite of obstruction by hardliners, but the conservative watchdog Guardian Council has refused to approve their compatibility with religious laws and the Iranian constitution. As a result, the bills are left with the Expediency Council as the final arbiter between the Majles and Guardian Council, but the expediency council has not given its final verdict yet.

But more than the anti-corruption bills, the hardliners sense a real threat in 2019, with an aging Supreme Leader, an economy in deep trouble and a large mass of people demanding change.