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Khamenei's Silence Keeps Anti-Money Laundering Bills In Limbo

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. File photo

Gholamali Haddad Adel, a member of Iran’s Expediency Discernment Council and a close relative of Iran’s Supreme Leader, says Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has not expressed any view on two bills that would join Iran to the Palermo Convention about money laundering and anti-terror financing.

These are two of the four bills the Iranian parliament has approved to meet the requirements of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), but constitutional watchdog Guardian Council has ruled it out and the case has been referred to the EDC as the final arbiter.

Speaking to Fars news agency on February 28, Haddad Adel added that Khamenei “has not confirmed the views of those who support the bill and has asked the council members to pay more attention to the faults they have found in the bill.”

This contradicts Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s recent remark about Khamenei supporting the approval of the bill.

The Iranian currency has dropped against the dollar after the council postponed the discussions about the bills.

The opponents of legislation, who also oppose the Rouhani administration, say that approving the bills against money laundering and funding terrorism will prevent Iran from extending financial assistance to HAMAS and the Lebanese Hezbollah, while also leaving the doors open for espionage against the Islamic Republic.

The bill’s supporters say its opponents in fact fear economic transparency and prevention of financial corruption.

There were originally four bills and two have been approved but the remaining bills are still waiting final approval by the Expediency Discernment Council.

The FATF has already renewed Iran’s deadline to join the four conventions against money laundering and financing terrorism four times, most recently in mid-February. Eventually, if Iran fails to meet FATF’s requirement, it will be listed once again in the FATF’s black list, making it even harder for Iran to run its international financial affairs including repatriating its oil revenues.

Rouhani said in December that Iran spends 20 percent more than other countries on its international financial transactions because it has failed to ratify the four bills.

In the meantime, members of the parliament and the Expediency Council who have openly supported the ratification of the bills have received death threats from unknown senders, presumably hardliners.

Some conspiracy theorists speculated that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s attempted resignation this week was a stunt by the administration to make Khamenei express a clear position about the bills. Rouhani even tried to put words in Khamenei’s mouth but the denial by Haddad Adel proved Rouhani wrong and left the problem unsolved.

On the other hand, Khamenei has often evaded a clear decision or public statement about certain controversial issues, so every side of the argument can claim the Supreme Leader is on their side. His silence on this issue has changed the minds of some council members such as Ahmad Tavakoli who has turned against the bills after months of supporting the legislation.

Once again, the Islamic Republic appears to be in a deadlock because of its structural flaws and blurred lines od responsibility. This time, the indecision is endangering Iranians’ livelihood as collecting the oil money could become even more difficult for the Islamic Republic while sanctions are tearing apart its economy.