Days after Iran’s Supreme Leader blocked legislation intended to pave the way for joining the U.N. anti-organized crime convention, the Iranian President and the speaker of parliament are set to meet him for “further” discussions, a member of parliament has disclosed.
Mohammad Ali Vakili has maintained that the parliament has not officially shelved the proposals made by President Hassan Rouhani’s administration.
President Rouhani has proposed four bills related to FATF and UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crimes (UNTOC), hoping their approval will lead to relaxing some of the economic pressures internationally imposed on the Iranian economy and banking system.
Nevertheless, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the bills “unacceptable” on June 20, saying the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crimes (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.
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.
Anti-Rouhani’s Administration forces and MPs, who have vehemently opposed the proposed bill, insist that Khamenei’s recent comment on FATF and UNTOC is the last nail in the coffin of the government’s proposal, i.e. it is dead and shelved forever.
One of the main reasons behind the opposition to the bills is that, by joining FATF and UNTOC, it would be difficult for the Islamic Republic to financially assist militant groups such as Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian HAMAS.
According to Vakili, the comments made by Khamenei did not necessarily mean that he is absolutely against the governments bills.
“Based on our interpretation of the comments, the Leader has seen some positive points in FATF and parliament, while considering the country’s interests, should pass a relevant law,” Vakili said on Sunday, adding, “The Leader’s remarks [on FATF and UNTOC] definitely did not mean shelving them for good.”
Nonetheless, conservative and ultraconservative allies have already begged to differ.
On Friday, June 15, Khamenei’s representative in Mashhad, Shi’ites’ holiest city in Iran, implicitly threatened the proponents of joining FATF and UNTOC with assassination.
In the meantime, Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Chairman Rob Portman (R-OH) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) have sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Munchin to use U.S. influence during the upcoming FATF meeting to keep the screws tight on Iran.
Complaining that as part of the nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration paved the way for a gradual relaxation of FATF actions against Iran, the letter says, “Iran continues to insist on exempting ‘legitimate popular resistance against colonial domination and foreign occupation,’ which would allow Iran to continue financing terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Hezbollah. It’s time to recognize that Iran has failed to take the necessary steps – despite its pledges two years ago – to be removed from the list of FATF’s high-risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions. The United States should now utilize its influence within the FATF to re-impose countermeasures against Iran and protect the international financial system.”