Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard listen to a speech in parliament in Tehran on October 7, 2018, over a bill to counter terrorist financing. Photo: AFP/Atta Kenare
Iranian lawmakers have approved a contentious bill to counter terror financing, seen as critical to maintaining relations with European allies amid intensifying US economic pressure.
“The decision will … smooth the path for Iran’s increased financial transactions with the rest of the world, help remove the country from investment blacklists – as it faces renewed US sanctions – and will foil enemy plots to use the allegation of supporting terrorism as a pretext to put pressure on Tehran,” the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) said Monday.
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The bill was passed on Sunday with a decent margin, garnering 143 votes in favor and 120 against.
It is part of an effort to placate the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force, which has given Iran a deadline of October 2018 to tighten regulations against money laundering and terror financing, and to accede to the UN Terrorism Financing Convention.
Most crucially, Tehran hopes this step will ease US pressure on European governments as well as Russia and China, all of whom are seeking to salvage the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran nuclear deal.
“Neither I nor the president can guarantee that all problems will go away if we join (the UN convention),” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was quoted by AFP as saying in Sunday’s debate.
“But I guarantee that not joining will provide the US with more excuses to increase our problems,” he added.
The bill was contested by conservatives, who view it as a suspicious infringement on Iran’s banking sector as well as its support for allies like Hezbollah in Lebanon.
But the government of Iranian President Hassan Rohani is intent on removing Washington’s diplomatic ammunition and giving the European Union the guarantees it needs to help Iran get around US sanctions.
“The Iranian lawmakers’ decision (will) pave the way for the unimpeded implementation of the measures taken by Iran and Europe to bypass US sanctions, such as the initiative to establish a Special Purpose Vehicle to facilitate payments related to Iran’s exports, including oil,” IRNA reported.
President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the accord in May and his administration is in the process of reinstating crippling sanctions against Iran, with the next round set to go into effect November 5.