Iran’s parliament has voted narrowly to ratify compliance with global rules on tackling terrorist financing and money-laundering despite fierce opposition from hardliners who fear it will increase western control over the Islamic Republic’s financial system.
European states have argued that it is vital for Iran to ratify the UN treaty if it is to maintain connections to the global financial system in the face of the crippling sanctions that the US has re-imposed. The centrist government of Hassan Rouhani has also lobbied hard within the regime to the same end.
On Sunday, 143 out of 271 legislators voted for the controversial move to join Combating the Financing of Terrorism, while 120 were against and the rest abstained.
Ratifying the treaty was a crucial step for Iran to show its compliance with recommendations from the Financial Action Task Force, a Paris-based body that sets global standards.
The FATF suspended Iran from a blacklist of rogue countries in June 2016 with the proviso that the Islamic Republic had to fall in line with international norms on money-laundering and counter-terrorist financing. It gave Iran until October, when FATF next meets, to take measures, including ratifying some UN treaties, or face being put back on the blacklist.
Mohammad Javad Zarif, foreign minister of Iran, said no one could guarantee that the country’s problems would be resolved with the new measure. “But we can give assurances that the US will have no excuse to increase pressure on [other countries which] do business with us,” he said.
Hardline forces — mostly in the elite Revolutionary Guards, the judiciary and among senior clergy — warned that a western body such as the FATF could be used to tie up Iran and interfere in its foreign policies.
Mojtaba Zonnour, a hardline MP, said on Saturday that the FATF would put Iran in a “glass room with no window to skip sanctions”.
Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani, a senior cleric and politician, said on Friday that the FATF “is surely a dangerous thing”, which might prevent Iran from supporting its proxy forces in the region, notably Lebanon’s Hizbollah and Yemen’s Houthis.
But Abbas Abdi, a reformist commentator, said opponents of the plan were not worried so much about proxy forces in the region but about money-laundering inside Iran which happened “as easy as drinking water”, he said.
“Those who earn black money through smuggling, bribery, embezzlement and so on clean it in local banks but the FATF rules would make it impossible or difficult,” he added.
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