JEDDAH: Iran’s powerful Guardian Council on Sunday rejected legislation to join the UN convention against terrorist financing, just a few hours before the reintroduction of tough US sanctions on Tehran’s oil trade and banking sector.
Joining the convention is crucial to Iran’s hopes of obtaining European support in evading the sanctions, which came into effect at midnight on Sunday. But conservative hawks on the council fear it would prevent them from funding groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, by forcing greater financial transparency.
The council said aspects of the bill were against Islamic law and the constitution and sent it back to Parliament for revision. The legislation “has flaws and ambiguities,” spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaie said.
The bill, narrowly passed by Parliament last month, is one of four proposed by President Hassan Rouhani’s government to meet demands set by the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which monitors countries’ efforts to tackle money-laundering and terrorist financing.
Rouhani’s government says the law is vital after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions. The other parties to the deal — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — have demanded that Iran accede to the FATF if it wants to maintain trade.
“Neither I nor the president can guarantee that all problems will go away if we join the UN convention, but I guarantee that not joining will provide the US with more excuses to increase our problems,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said during the parliamentary debate last month.
Previous legislation on money-laundering and organized crime has also been delayed by higher authorities, including the Guardian Council, after being approved by Parliament.
The council is made up of six clerics appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and six lawyers appointed by the judiciary.
Iran’s failure to pass the FATF “is only symptomatic of the larger issue of Iran’s support for extremist and terrorist groups and organizations,” the security analyst Dr. Ted Karasik told Arab News.
“The legislation is good for domestic consumption by particular groups of officials, but the whole process is of course a sham.
“Its funding for terrorist militias and its acts of espionage make Iran, and specifically the Quds Force, simply unqualified for FATF status.”