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Khamenei's Men Create New Hurdle For Joining UN Convention

A meeting of Expediency Discernment Council, April 28, 2018. Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (3rd from R) is also a member, despite his sharp criticism of the ruling elite.
A meeting of Expediency Discernment Council, April 28, 2018. Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (3rd from R) is also a member, despite his sharp criticism of the ruling elite.

A day after Financial Action Task Force (FATF) extended Iran sanctions waiver for another three months, keeping Tehran out of its “black list”, the Islamic Republic’s Expediency Discernment Council (EDC) has stepped in to support the Supreme Leader’s opposition to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC).

The EDC called upon majles (Iranian parliament) on Saturday, June 30, to remove what it described as “the ambiguities” concerning the bill meant to pave the way to joining (UNTOC).

The “High Supervisory Board of the Expediency Discernment Council” was formed last September, by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s special order, as a subdivision of EDC to monitor and supervise Tehran’s grand and long term national policies.

The board, chaired by EDC’s Secretary and former Chief Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Major General Mohsen Rezaei, has insisted that some articles of the bill are in opposition to the policies of the “resistance economy” already approved by the parliament.

Meanwhile, the board has promised to review the compatibility of the bill with the country’s security concerns, once the bill is amended by majles and its “ambiguities” removed.

Based on the Supreme Leader’s order, the speaker of majles is duty-bound to deliver a copy of the proposed motions and bills to the high advisory board of EC, for further evaluation.

EDC was originally set up by the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1988 to resolve differences or disputes between parliament and the Guardian Council, but "its true power lies more in its advisory role to the Supreme Leader. Its power has significantly expanded after Khamenei appointed Iraqi born Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi as its chairman, replacing former President and speaker of parliament, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who died last year.

President Rouhani’s Administration has proposed four bills concerning FATF UNTOC and UNODC to parliament, hoping to reduce international pressures on Iran’s deteriorating economy.

UNOGC is the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a G7 initiative to combat money laundering and terrorism financing, has placed Iran beside North Korea for nearly two decades at the top of the list of countries with the highest economic and financial risks. This has brought tough banking restrictions on Iran, which can be eased if the country joins the UN convention and accepts other reforms demanded by FATF.

Ayatollah Khamenei on June 20 called the bills related to FATF, UNTOC “unacceptable”, saying UNTOC, the objective of which is to fight primarily money laundering and terrorism funding, had been “cooked up” by foreign powers, and that the parliament should shelve it.

“It is not necessary to join conventions the depths of which we are unaware of,” he said, proposing instead that parliament create its own laws to combat money laundering and terrorism funding rather than join an international convention.

Therefore, the EDC’s “unanimous” decision on the bills explicitly echoes Khamenei’s opposition to President Rouhani’s proposals.

In the meantime, several MPs, including Alireza Beigi have cited the deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araqchi as saying that although FATF and UNTOC are not directly connected to Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers, but it might have a negative impact on European cooperation with Tehran, if Iran stays out of these international conventions.

FATF took a harder line on Friday on Tehran. The group warned Tehran of "appropriate and necessary actions" if it does not to enact amendments in in full compliance with its standards.

Iran has been trying to implement anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CFT) standards set by the FATF for years, but the group says it is not satisfied with the measures.