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.


Egypt races to reduce impact of $5 billion Ethiopian dam

Updated 21 March 2019
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Egypt races to reduce impact of $5 billion Ethiopian dam

  • Research group warns of ‘dire humanitarian consequences’ over disputed Al-Nahda project
  • Ethiopia plans to store 74 billion cubic meters of Nile water behind the dam

CAIRO: An international research group has warned of “dire humanitarian consequences” if a controversial Ethiopian project to dam the Nile leads to conflict with Egypt and neighboring Sudan.

The $5 billion dam is a source of friction between the three countries that could spill over into open hostility, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report.

Egypt and Sudan fear the dam, now being built near the Sudanese border, could reduce available water to both countries.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, or Al-Nahda dam, has been under construction since 2011 and is due to be completed in 2022. When finished it will be the largest dam in Africa, generating about 6,000 megawatts of electricity for domestic use and export.

Dr. Abbas Al-Sharaki, a water resources expert at the Institute of African Studies at Cairo University, told Arab News that Egypt is likely to face a water crisis in the future because of the dam.

Planned negotiations on the dam between the leaders of Egypt and Ethiopia are unlikely to succeed, he said. 

Ethiopia plans to store 74 billion cubic meters of Nile water behind the dam, which would affect the 55.5 billion cubic meters of water that Egypt currently gets from the Nile. Ethiopia’s leaders insist the dam will also benefit all three countries.

Dr. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, the former Egyptian minister of irrigation, said that the impact of the Ethiopian dam on the Egyptian water quota is inevitable, but Egypt is looking to reduce its effects and delay it as long as possible until other resources are raised.

Dr. Hisham Bakhit, professor of water resources at Cairo University, said that Egypt is conducting large-scale research to reduce the impact of the dam.

Egypt has many sustainable solutions to manage the Nile’s water, he said.

The country gets 90 percent of its irrigation and drinking water from the Nile, and has “historical rights” over the river guaranteed under treaties in 1929 and 1959, Bakhit said.

MP Mustafa Al-Jundi said that Egypt has the right to appeal to the African Union, the African Parliament, the UN and international courts in the case of Ethiopia’s intransigence.

Mohamed Abdel-Ati, Egypt’s minister of irrigation and water resources, said this week that Cairo does not oppose the development ambitions of any country “as long as they don’t harm any shares in water or threaten national security.”

The ministry is working to tap all sources of water and implement modern methods in irrigation. Desalination and wastewater treatment plants, and experimental studies into salt water farming are among Egypt’s plans to ensure reliable future supplies, he said.

The Al-Nahda dam was 60 percent complete before work stopped in August as a result of a funding crisis. In January, a Chinese company, Voith Hydro Shanghai, signed a deal to build the turbine generators at the dam.