Analysis by PMOI/MEK
March 10, 2019 - Gholamreza Mesbahi-Moghadam, a powerful Iranian cleric close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, expressed his opposition to the FATF bills during last Friday’s Tehran prayers and said: “Joining Iran to the Palermo and CFT bills is [when we are] under sanctions. Some people, including the government, insist that we join these conventions and they argue that if we join these conventions, we are creating international transparency regarding our exchanges and in return foreign banks will trust our exchanges and this will increase our exchanges.”
Mesbahi-Moghadam is a former member of the Majlis (parliament) and currently serves in the Expediency Discernment Council.
“This wouldn’t be wrong if there were no sanctions, but at a time when sanctions are put in place, first of all, the dignified parliament has passed two bills for terrorism financing and money-laundering, the Guardian Council had reservations and the [Expediency] Council amended and approved it,” Mesbahi-Moghadam further said.
Currently the Iranian regime is suspended from the Financial Actions Task Force’s blacklist. In its February meeting in Paris, the FATF gave Tehran a final ultimatum until its June meeting to approve the remaining legislator initiatives to conform to the world’s de facto standards body for financial transactions transparency.
“If by June 2019, Iran does not enact the remaining legislation in line with FATF Standards, then the FATF will require increased supervisory examination for branches and subsidiaries of financial institutions based in Iran. The FATF also expects Iran to continue to progress with enabling regulations and other amendments,” FATF’s February statement reads.
In his Tehran Friday Prayer ceremony speech Mesbahi-Moghadam continued: “So we have two internal laws that provide for financial transactions transparency for our country. Surely, this financial transparency is what FATF also wanted, although it tells us about these two bills to do this, add that, and change something else.”
“No, this is none of your business. These are two internal laws of ours. The two bills of the government for the Palermo convention and CFT (Combatting the Financing of Terrorism) are exactly these same two bills, but for international relation so we can shut other people’s mouths,” he said, addressing FATF.
“There are no advantages for us to join these two bills.”
“Mr. Zarif [Iran’s foreign minister] was asked whether our financial situation will improve if we join this convention or not? He said I can’t promise that. The president said the same. So, they don’t promise that it’ll improve, but will it worsen or not?” he asked the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s government.
Approving the remaining necessary bills for the Islamic Republic to join FATF and avoid further international isolation has become an escalating point of controversy between the political factions of the mullahcracy ruling in Tehran.
The so-called moderates, represented by their president Hassan Rouhani and his foreign minister Javad Zarif, argue that if the regime doesn’t approve the bills, not only won’t Europe’s financial mechanism—dubbed INSTEX, a special purpose vehicle aimed at circumventing U.S. sanctions—work, but even the banking sector of Iranian allies like Russia and China will shun at dealing with Iran.
They further hold that by circumventing international financial standards, the regime will only prove the Trump administration’s point that the ruling theocracy in Iran is a rogue regime sowing death and destruction in the region and around the world by financing proxy terrorist groups and regimes.
On the other end of the spectrum, Ali Khamenei’s hardliners are concerned about the ramifications of such an engagement for the whole regime.
The mullahs’ regime is founded on the idea of exporting its “revolution” to the Islamic world, which translates to spreading terrorism and sectarian violence to neighboring countries.
Joining FATF will act as a toxic substance running through the Islamic Republic’s power structure that will weaken it from the inside and lead to its final demise.
Iranian-sponsored non-state actors like the Lebanese Hezbollah are already feeling the pain.
Mesbahi-Moghadam continued: “Under severe U.S. sanctions, is it in the interest of the government and the Iranian people to reveal and make transparent our foreign exchanges to the U.S., the Zionist regime [Islamic Republic’s parlance for Israel], and Saudi Arabia who are supervising members of FATF?
“The current president of FATF is the United States. Mr. Marshall Billingslea is the holder of this post. This is the same person who was and is responsible for Iran’s sanctions in the U.S. Treasury. He is waiting for Iran to join this convention, so he gets the necessary leverage to contain Iran’s exchanges.”
As the political infighting over the FATF bills continues and escalates, it is interesting to observe how the Islamic Republic tries to figure out the lesser evil between the stools it is fallen from which it was previously allowed to ride both simultaneously.