Iran has until February to stop terror financing

The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force has given Tehran until this month to bring its laws against money-laundering and funding of terrorism up to its guidelines. (AFP)
Updated 20 October 2018
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Iran has until February to stop terror financing

  • The Financial Action Task Force said it was disappointed that Tehran had acted on only nine out of 10 of its guidelines despite pledges to make the grade

JEDDAH: A global financial watchdog on Friday warned Iran to clamp down on terrorism financing by February or face a deeper squeeze on its sanctions-hit economy.

Tehran, already hurt by a resumption of US sanctions, this month approved a bill to help meet demands imposed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

But nine of the 10 “action plan” items needed to remove Iran from an FATF blacklist have yet to be adopted by Tehran, according to Marshall Billingslea, the US assistant treasury secretary for terrorist financing.
“In our plenary, here in Paris, we expressed our disappointment that the majority of the action plan remains outstanding,” said Billingslea, who currently chairs the FATF, told a news conference.
“We expect that they will have adopted all these measures by February,” he said.
Billingslea said if measures were not adopted by February next year, the FATF will take further steps to protect against the risks from Iran’s lack of action.

For Iran, access to finance has become particularly pressing since the United States walked out of a 2015 nuclear deal earlier this year and began reimposing sanctions.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh said Tehran will not meet the FATF’s requirements by February.

“Terror financing is deeply embedded in Iran’s political structure,” he told Arab News. “In fact, since 1979 it has been a core pillar of Tehran’s foreign policy to achieve its regional hegemonic ambitions and export its revolutionary principles. Financing terrorism is the raison d’etre of the Iranian regime.”

Iran will not clamp down on its terror financing, he said. “It’s a state sponsor of terrorism in the world. According to my research at Harvard, the Iranian regime supports almost half of the world’s designated terrorist groups,” Rafizadeh added. 

“It’s therefore absurd to believe that Tehran will meet the FATF’s requirements by February.”

Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said Iran has had since 1979 to end its financial support for designated terror groups such as Hezbollah, which have bases throughout the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and even North America.

“(Supreme Leader) Ali Khamenei has a choice: Either prioritize the economic needs of the Iranian people, who stand to benefit the most from ending illicit terror financing, or continue to be in violation of international law while giving free reign to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its black-market business empire, which has created a new class of enormously rich elites,” said Shahbandar.

The other parties to the deal — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — have sought to salvage the agreement and maintain trade with Iran, but have demanded that it accede to the FATF.
Among the further steps demanded by the FATF, originally an initiative of the G7 nations, was for Iran to identify and freeze extremist assets in line with UN Security Council resolutions.
Another was for Tehran to remove an exemption from its legislation that allows financing toward groups deemed to be attempting to end “foreign occupation, colonialism and racism.”
In a statement, the FATF said it will review Iran’s remaining legislation once it is in place to determine whether Tehran had met its demands.
It urged FATF members to exercise heightened checks on transactions involving Iranian businesses and nationals.
Iran is one of only two countries on the FATF blacklist.
The other is North Korea, and Friday’s statement reiterated “serious concerns” about the Asian country’s illicit activities to finance its missile and nuclear programs.


Iraq exhumes bodies thought to be Kurds killed by Saddam

Updated 50 min 4 sec ago
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Iraq exhumes bodies thought to be Kurds killed by Saddam

  • “More than 70 bodies including women and children, ranging from newborns to 10 years old” have so far been exhumed
  • “The evidence collected indicates they were summarily executed in 1988,” said the head of Baghdad’s Medico-Legal Directorate

BAGHDAD: Iraq on Tuesday began exhuming the remains of dozens of victims, including children, likely killed during ex-dictator Saddam Hussein’s campaign against the country’s Kurds, a forensics official told AFP.
The mass grave was uncovered in Tal Al-Sheikhiya, about 300 kilometers (200 miles) south of Baghdad, said Zaid Al-Youssef, the head of Baghdad’s Medico-Legal Directorate which is tasked with identifying the remains.
“More than 70 bodies including women and children, ranging from newborns to 10 years old” have so far been exhumed, Youssef said.
Those remains were recovered from the surface layer of the site, he said, but “there could be a second deeper layer” with additional bodies.
“The evidence collected indicates they were summarily executed in 1988,” said Youssef, which coincides with Saddam’s brutal “Anfal” campaign against Iraq’s Kurds.
The operation took place between 1987 and 1988 and saw nearly 180,000 Kurds killed and more than 3,000 villages destroyed.
“The female victims were blindfolded and killed by gunshots to the head, but also have traces on various parts of their bodies of bullets that were fired randomly,” Youssef said.
The grave lies in the southern province of Mutahanna, also home to the notorious Nigrat Salman prison camp.
Many Kurds and political opponents of the previous regime were held there, and survivors shared tales of humiliation, rape and detention of minors as part of Saddam’s 2006 trial.
Iraq has been hit by wave after wave of conflict in recent decades, culminating in the fight against the Daesh group which ended in late 2017.
Those years of conflict left grave sites all across the country where the remains of thousands of victims from Iraq’s diverse ethnic and religious communities have been uncovered.
IS alone left behind an estimated 200 mass graves that could hold up to 12,000 bodies, the United Nations has said.
Authorities are testing remains from the most recent conflict as well as wars dating back three decades in an effort to identify the fates of missing Iraqis.
According to Iraqi authorities, Saddam’s regime forcefully disappeared more than one million people in the 1980s and 1990s, and many of their families are still trying to find out what happened to them.