Iran, December 27, 2019 – While the Iranian regime is still reeling in the aftermath of November’s nationwide protests, the looming deadline set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for Tehran to become compliant with international financial norms has further exacerbated the regime’s inner crises.
The FATF, which oversees the security of the global financial system and sets banking transaction standards, has given the Iranian regime until February to finalize the laws that will allow the country to join the Palermo and Counter Financing Terrorism (CFT) conventions against funding terrorism and money laundering.
“In my opinion, the issue of FATF and its laws have been politicized,” said Mahmoud Vaezi, chief of staff of regime president Hassan Rouhani, who was speaking at an official meeting in Ardebil on Tuesday. “What is happening regarding the FATF is setting limitations and more sanctions against the economy and banking relations of the country. The bodies that are opposing the FATF must assume responsibility for the blow dealt to the economy.”
If Tehran fails to pass the laws and make its financial system transparent, it will put on the FATF’s list of “Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories,” which will deal a heavy blow to its international banking as well as foreign investments in Iran, both of which require full compliance with FATF rules.
Despite having extended the deadline several times, the Iranian regime is still dithering on passing the necessary legislation to become conformant to FATF rules. The issue of passing the laws has become a source of constant tension between the Majlis (parliament), the Guardian Council, and the Expediency Council.
On the one hand, the regime is in dire need of foreign trade and financial channels as the noose of U.S. sanctions tightens around it. Many of its trade partners, including European states, have predicated the establishment of new financial and trade channels on the passing of the FATF laws. But on the other hand, becoming compliant with FATF rules will expose many of Tehran’s illicit activities, including the funding of terrorist and fundamentalist groups in the Middle East and across the world.
A letter by several Majlis members warning against the consequences of not passing the FATF legislations has been making the rounds in state-run media. If the regime is placed on the FATF’s blacklist, all of the foreign branches of its banks will be sanctioned, and bank accounts of all persons who have an Islamic Republic passport will be closed, the MPs warn in their letter. The MPs also stress that financial transactions with Russia, a prominent trade partner of the Iranian regime, will be disrupted, and the country’s national currency will take another nosedive.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi, an MP with ties to Iranian regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei, warns against the consequences of passing the FATF legislations. “Under the current circumstances, FATF is like a hanging rope that we are throwing around our own neck. By joining its conventions, we are exposing to our enemies our trade deals and circumvention of sanctions,” Zahedi said.
Mohsen Rezaei, the secretary of the Expediency Council, said, “Right now, we are running the country’s economy by circumventing sanctions. If joining the FATF, CFT, Palermo gives the U.S. the possibility to misuse this information, our economy will face bigger problems.”