By Poorang Novak
The Iranian Regime is deeply divided over financial transparency bills to combat terrorism financing and prevent money laundering that the country needs to pass in order to improve Iran’s global financial status.
On Sunday, the Iranian parliament made minor amendments to the Combating the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) bill, which they had already passed, to address the 22 problems raised by the Guardian Council and sent it to the Expediency Council for final approval. However, the Expediency Council, which is supposed to resolve conflicts between the Parliament and the Guardian Council, did not see fit to pass it and instead referred the bill to specialised commissions.
The Guardian Council is a body of 12 clerics whose job is to make sure that bills passed by the parliament are in line with the Regime values and clearly combating terrorism does not align with the values of the Regime, even if not passing the bill spell ruin for the Regime.
After all, Iran has less than a month left to pass the four necessary bills regarding complying with international norms and standards in terms of financial transparency or their suspension from international anti-money laundering body, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), will become permanent. Given that this dispute has been raging for months, it doesn’t seem likely that anything will be resolved before the deadline.
So what is the dispute over?
Well, the President Hassan Rouhani faction appears to want the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei faction to return to the negotiating table, with MP Jalal Mirzaii accusing the Khamenei factions of creating a “deadlock” and obstructing the “strategy development program of the country” and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif saying that money launderers were trying to prevent the bills from being passed. Abbas Ahmad Akhoundi, a former minister of roads and urban development in the Rouhani cabinet, said that not passing FATF means “entering a dead-end”. The reason being that the Rouhani faction sees this as being the way out of international sanctions that are pressing down on the Regime.
MP Ahmad Alirezabigi, who is firmly in Khamenei’s faction, hit back at the Rouhani faction as a whole, saying that this bill merely gives “political credibility to America’s desires”.
But, as always with the Regime, the fight is not about what is best for the country, its people, or even global security. It’s merely about which option will preserve the Regime for that little bit longer and possibly result in the leader of the faction taking charge of the country.
Given the toxicity of the fight, one might well wonder why Khamenei doesn’t step in and settle the matter finally. Well, the Iranian Resistance says that is because he doesn’t have the “political capital” to risk picking the option that would end up hurting the Regime, so in order to protect himself, he is trying to avoid the issue altogether.
It’s not clear how this fight will end, but what seems obvious is that the international community must stop tolerating a state sponsor of terrorism soon enough, and then the Iranian Regime will fall, no matter what the mullahs do.