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Conservative Attacks Intensify Against Anti-Corruption Bills

FATF protestors in Tehran, September 30.

While Iran's parliament is preparing to vote on a bill restricting money laundering and support for terrorism demanded by the international community, the Friday Prayer Leaders across Iran bitterly attacked President Hassan Rouhani for backing the bill.

Iran is under pressure by the International Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to accept a number of U.N. conventions against unlawful financial activities and support for terrorist entities.

Joining international anti-corruption conventions is crucial for Iran if it ever wants to emerge from economic isolation and attract foreign investments.

In tandem with fiery sermons delivered by the clergy, who are directly appointed by the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an anti-FATF rally was held at Friday Prayers location in the capital city, Tehran.

Furthermore, a member of the influential Expediency Council (EC) has also insisted that it will definitely reject the bill.

Debate on Iran joining the international convention against financing global terrorism has triggered widespread protests among the conservative camp that rules country, while ordinary people showed their anger against corruption in mass protests this year.

The ever-growing protests by conservatives forced parliament to temporarily shelve the bill and other bills related to it, last June.

A president Rouhani supporter holds an anti corruption banner during Rouhani's campaign rally in Tehran on Tuesday May 9, 2017.
A president Rouhani supporter holds an anti corruption banner during Rouhani's campaign rally in Tehran on Tuesday May 9, 2017.

The bill was scheduled to be re-introduced to parliament last Sunday, September 30, but, once again a crowd gathered outside to protest the move.

The protesters, numbering over 200, said endorsing the bill would amount to betraying the values of the "Islamic Revolution" and is against guidelines of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Several ultra conservative lawmakers, including former commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Javad Karimi Qoddousi, were among the participants.

The protesters, introducing themselves as Tehran university students, carried banners and chanted "joining the FATF will harm Iran's security and economy", deploring the government for presenting the FATF to the legislative body for a final approval.

Rouhani's proposed bill is part of four sets of legislation, known as "Palermo Bills" in Iran, and is intended to get Tehran out of FATF's black list.

Two other bills have been approved by the parliament, so far, but rejected by the legislative watchdog, the Guardian Council (GC), calling for amendments. After parliament refused to amend the bills, they were referred to the Expediency Council, which is entrusted with acting as an arbiter between the two bodies.

Attacking the bills in recent days, mainly after the publication of a diagram against them on Khamenei's official website, has significantly intensified.
Responding to Khamenei's position, the Friday Prayer Leaders across Iran barraged the bills with vitriolic criticism, on October 5.

City of Rasht Friday Prayer Leader, Rasoul Falahati blasted FATF, insisting, "The Islamic Republic is an independent regime with independent planning; therefore, it will never bow to 'Zionist' conventions."

Moreover, dozens of people were carrying placards condemning the Palermo bills on the fringes of Tehran Friday Prayer, October 5, IRGC affiliated news agency, Fars, reported.The possible signatories of FATF bill were accused of "treason" on the placards, Fars said.

Responding to these attacks, Tehran's outspoken MP, Mahmoud Sadeqi, has tacitly pointed out that widespread propaganda by "certain circles" against Palermo Bill is a sign that shows the involvement of those certain circles with money laundering, smuggling and financing terrorism.

Heated debate on the controversial bills is going on in Iran at a time that U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser has called the Islamic Republic "the central banker of international terrorism"

Laying out a wider strategy for countering Tehran in the Middle East, John Bolton told reporters on October 4 that the U.S. strategy toward Iran would use both military and nonmilitary means to push back on Iranian-backed militants, and their financial backers.

Iran, he said, had been "the world’s central banker of international terrorism since 1979."