By Jubin Katiraie

Soon, Iran’s sixth and last deadline for joining the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) will expire in February 2020.

The inter-governmental body previously determined a deadline for the Iranian government to be reconciled with FATF principles, including combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The fact is, if the Iranian government does not adopt the demanded protocols, FATF members will assign specific restrictions to compel the country to obey measures of the international financial system.

The Iranian government has adopted some of FATF’s articles, but it is unable to approve another four basic articles including an amendment to the money laundering act, refining the counter-terrorism financing, ratifying terrorist financing conventions (Palermo), and complying with combating the financing of terrorism (CFT). The Iranian government sees the approval of these four articles as crossing red lines, which resulted in long infighting among officials.

Nevertheless, if Iranian authorities don’t approve the remained four articles, this inter-governmental body will place Iran on its blacklist alongside North Korea. Iran’s entry onto the FATF blacklist will lead to permanent sanctions.

Iran’s Infighting and Concerns About Taking Next Steps

As the Iranian government approaches the end of the FATF deadline, infighting is intensifying among different factions once again. Regarding the economic suffocation that the country is experiencing, Rouhani’s supporters insist on complete accession to FATF bills.

“Iran will be blacklisted like North Korea if these [FATF] bills aren’t approved [by the Expediency Council] … And all Iran’s banking communications will practically be disrupted even with friendly states like China, Russia, India, Iraq, South Africa,” Setare Sobh newspaper quoted a government-linked expert Hassan Beheshtipour as saying on December 25. Beheshtipour also blamed members of the Expediency Council. He pressed them, why doesn’t the Council adopt a clear position over the FATF bills despite the passing of a year?

“If Iran doesn’t accept the FATF’s recommendations, governmental banks of our partner and friend states won’t be able to work with Iran anymore,” ISNA news agency quoted Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, a lawmaker and member of the national security and foreign policy commission, as saying on December 24.

On the other hand, President Hassan Rouhani’s rivals beat the drum of disapproval of FATF conventions.

Saeed Jalili, a member of the Expediency Council, criticized Rouhani’s efforts for joining the FATF. He described joining the Financial Action Task Force as tantamount to accepting more pressures and implementation of unilateral commitments. Jalili, who is also a former Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, told some members of the parliament in a meeting, “The U.S. Treasury Secretary frankly announced that with the approval of this convention [FATF] by Iran, we can deter circumvention of sanctions. At the same time, inside the country some people pursue to impose more pressure on the people and perform unilateral commitments,” Kayhan newspaper wrote on December 25.

Hossein Shariatmadari, the managing editor of Kayhan, also expressed concern about the consequences of approving FATF bills, which would lead the government to complete performance. Shariatmadari, who is known as an advocate of the supreme leader Ali Khamenei, wrote in Kayhan, “Complete compliance with the FATF won’t remove Iran from the blacklist. FATF statements did not state that Iran will be removed from the blacklist after full implementation of the action tasks. Instead, it is stated that the case of Iran will be referred to the General Assembly for consideration and the ‘next step’ will be raised.”

Iran’s Impasse Toward the FATF

In such circumstances, when the current ruling system suffers from instability due to recent protests, the intensification of infighting reveals the serious stalemate facing Iran’s rulers. Therefore, an unstable situation is awaiting officials over whether to approve the conventions or reject them.

“Right now, we are running the country’s economy by resorting to bypassing the sanctions. If the U.S. accesses the details [about circumvention the sanctions] according to joining the FATF and ratifying CFT and Palermo, economic problems will increase,” Mohsen Rezaei, the secretary of the Expediency Council, said in an interview with the state-run TV Channel 1 on December 26.

He also bluntly confirmed the Iranian government is employing illegal avenues and resorting to traffic gangs to refine its dire economic conditions. He emphasized that the government will lose its schemes to bypass the sanctions if it obeyed with the measures of the international financial system. “We are extremely concerned that they [FATF members] pushed us into an endless corridor. If we pass all 41 [recommendations], they will issue other recommendations and we must obey. It may lengthen 5-6 years [to accept our reforms] and never give us privileges that they formerly gave other countries,” Rezaei added in the same interview.

Iran’s ayatollahs, who are notoriously known as the godfather of terrorism, cannot avoid involvement in terrorism. They truly look at exporting terrorism and warmongering as a “regional power” and boast of their malign behavior and provocative meddling in neighboring countries. Therefore, they cannot ultimately adopt FATF bills and refrain from their essential means for terrorizing other nations.

Upcoming Protests Severely Terrify Ayatollahs

Significantly, the recent nationwide Iran protests that shook the pillars of the ruling system is an essential element in officials’ decision-making, particularly about FATF approval or disapproval. The reality is, many equations, treatments, positions, and prospects, whether inside the country or abroad, have been changed due to Iranians’ revolt. Before igniting protests, authorities were competing about economic interests. Some pursued to ease tensions with the global community by joining the FATF to benefit from international trades and financial system. On the other hand, Khamenei’s advocates were looking for using their vast smuggling network that is extended from Afghanistan to South America by Hezbollah and Iran’s other proxies. However, today, concern about resuming a new round of protests plays as the main parameter in authorities’ calculations about joining or not joining the international financial system.

“Despite all arguments, we hope our friends [a reference to Khamenei’s proponents] feel that joining two conventions [Palermo and CFT] won’t result in new socioeconomic problems. Instead, not joining [the FATF] will trigger an escalation of economic pressures that may lead to social consequences [protests],” the state-run website Jahan-e Sanat quoted Mohammad Sadr, a member of the Expediency Council, as saying on December 26.

However, given the Iranian government’s previous actions toward the country’s problems, the authorities have no potential to resolve any people’s obstacles. As a result, regardless of infighting about approval or disapproval of the FATF, economic privileges won’t ultimately rescue the Islamic Republic from its present breathtaking conditions. The Iranian people demonstrated that their demands are more than just about economic problems and they are eager for a fundamental change in the country’s political system.