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Iran Links Financial Safeguards Bills To Terror Designation Of Guards

Secretary-General of Iran's Expediency Discernment Council, Mohsen Rezaei. File photo

The Secretary-General of the influential Expediency Discernment Council (EDC) in Iran says the designation of Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist group by Washington has a significant impact on the fate of financial reform bills demanded by the West.

The Paris based international watchdog, Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has demanded that Iran should adopt anti-corruption, anti-money laundering and anti-terror financing legal safeguards.

After almost two years of delays, Iran still has not approved two bills that it claims should satisfy FTAF’s demands.

The fate of these bills is currently in the hands of the EDC, an arbitration body between Majles (Iranian parliament) and the powerful Council of Guardians.

In February FATF extended for the fourth time the suspension of countermeasures against Iran for another four months, until June, recognizing the country's efforts in trying to enact legislation needed for safeguards.

President Hassan Rouhani presented the proposal to meet FATF demands to parliament in November 2017. Supporters of the legislation, known collectively as the Palermo Bills in Iran, say joining the FATF and other international agreements on financial transparency, money laundering, and combatting international terrorism would reduce international pressure on Iran’s already deteriorating economy.

The bills would also pave the way for Iran to join the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), Combatting the Financing of Terrorism (CFT), and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crimes.

Iran and North Korea are the only countries in the world that have refused to join FATF, so far.

The government official news agency (IRNA) cited the Secretary-General of the EDC, former Chief-Commander of the IRGC, Major General Mohsen Rezaei as saying on Wednesday, April 24, that designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist group by Washington has been a "well calculated and premeditated" American plan.

"The U.S., Israel and some other countries wanted us to ratify FATF, and then designate the IRGC as a terrorist group, placing Iran at the point of no return."

However, Rezaei claimed, "We were already informed about the cooked-up design, and that is why the procedure of weighing FATF has been so slow."

Rezaei stopped short of explaining why Washington decided to designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist group, while Tehran has not yet joined FATF.

Opponents of the bills, mainly Friday prayer leaders, top commanders of the Guards, and other conservative allies of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have repeatedly argued that passing the bills will threaten Iran’s security.

However, analysts say the real fear in circles loyal to Khamenei is that adhering to the rules for financial transparency would prevent Tehran from funding the Lebanese Hezbollah, Yemeni Houthis, and Palestinian Hamas militant groups.

Khamenei has also said the international conventions were “cooked up” by foreign enemies.

In the case of U.S. sanctions, Europe, China and Russia are apparently resisting Washington’s pressure, but, should Iran refuse to join FATF, they would be left with no option other than stopping all banking ties with Iran.

EDC has promised to issue its final verdict on the fate of FATF in its next session sometime in May.