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Top General Decries Intl. Anti-Money Laundering Regulator As Threat To Iran

Former Iranian defense minister, Brigadier general Ahmad Vahidi. File photo

An influential Iranian general has joined the chorus of conservative voices against Tehran joining the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international body implementing measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.

Former defense minister and member of the Supreme Leader’s advisory council (EDC), Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi, argues FATF is a security apparatus, not a financial regulatory body, and that joining it is against Iran’s interests.

"FATF is an intelligence system, independent of the UN," Vahidi warned January 28, according to IRGC-run Tasnim news agency. “Through its formation, [the West] wants to undermine our scientific nuclear power. When the enemy realized it couldn’t hamper Iran’s peaceful nuclear program by UN resolutions, it tried to include nuclear issues in the FATF to prevent our country’s progress.

Vahidi, whose real name is "Shah Cheraghi,” joined the IRGC immediately after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and was soon promoted to deputy intelligence commander of the elite military force tasked with protecting the revolution. He was the only IRGC member present at the 1986 talks between the Islamic Republic representatives and a delegation secretly sent to Iran by the White House to arrange a secret sale of weapons to Iran despite a U.S. arms embargo. White House officials hoped the arms transfers through Israel would help secure the release of seven U.S. hostages being held in Lebanon.

Vahidi, once the chief commander of the Quds Force, the IRGC's unit for extraterritorial operations, is well known for his conservative tendencies and anti-West positions.

The opponents of FATF and other international conventions against money laundering and terrorism financing consist mainly of Friday prayer leaders and IRGC commanders, as well as other conservative allies of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. They argue that joining the FATF will threaten Iran’s security, whereas analysts say the real fear in circles loyal to the Supreme Leader is that adhering to rules for financial transparency would prevent Tehran from funding the Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas militant groups.

On January 28, an ally of president Hassan Rouhani who is a member of the EDC told Iranian media that he has received a death threat, after the council discussed the anti-corruption, terror financing bill last Saturday.

Khamenei has dismissed proposals to join the FATF presented by President Hassan Rouhani as "cooked up" by "foreign enemies" of the Islamic Republic.
FATF has given Iran a deadline until February to complete reforms that would “bring it into line with global norms or face consequences” that could further deter investors from the country.

Iran and Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) are the only countries that have not yet joined the FATF.