Tehran Friday Prayer leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami addresses worshippers, October 19, 2018
The Tehran Friday Prayer leader has indicated that Iran may not join the international Convention Against Funding Terrorism, jeopardizing the Islamic Republic’s efforts for links with Europe to avert economic crisis.
After months of debate, Parliament voted 143-120 on October 7 to join the Financial Action Task Force, created in 1989 and expanded after 2001 to include terrorism finance.
Hardliners argued that accession to the convention could restrict Iran’s support of groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Yemen’s Houthi insurgency, and the Palestinian faction Hamas. But the Rouhani Government said the accession is necessary to get European support for trade and investment, ahead of comprehensive US sanctions from November 5. Russia reportedly told Iran’s Central Bank Governor that its banks cannot help Tehran against the sanctions without a commitment to the FATF.
Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami told worshippers on Friday that international organizations such as FATF are not reliable. He objected to a comment by the FATF’s executive secretary of FATF that there is no guarantee of easing of sanctions with Iran’s accession: “When there is no guarantee, why should we suffocate ourselves with this execution cord?”
Tehran Friday Prayer leaders deliver their sermons with guidance from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s office. Earlier this week, in another caution against the Government’s negotiations with Europe, Khamenei said the Islamic Republic must look East and not West for its scientific and technological future.
Khatami emphasized on Friday that the bill faces two other stages to become law. First, it will be considered by the Guardian Council, whose 12 members are appointed by the Supreme Leader and the judiciary. If Parliament is not satisfied, the Expediency Council will issue a decision.
“The country’s affairs will get nowhere through anxiety, and FATF bill is going through its legal path like any other bill,” the cleric said.
In a clear indication of his own opposition, he said “thieves who were pushed out of the door of the country 40 years ago” are trying to re-enter through bodies such as the FATF.
When Parliament passed the bill, Speaker Ali Larijani produced a letter from Khamenei which said he was not against ratification — although the Supreme Leader also did not express support. The Leader’s supporters split during the vote.