(CNSNews.com) – With a prospect of an investment blacklist looming, Iran’s government succeeded Sunday in securing parliamentary approval for a bill on terror financing in a bid to stave off even more international pressure than it is already under with the reimposition of U.S. sanctions.
Iran faces a deadline next week to meet a list of demands of the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), or face possible “counter-measures” which would have a severe impact on investment.
A divided parliament (majlis) voted 143-120 in favor of the bill on joining the U.N. Terrorist Financing Convention, after Foreign Minister Javad Zarif urged support.
Zarif told lawmakers neither he nor President Hassan Rouhani could guarantee that the FATF demands would resolve Iran’s problems, but that rejecting the move would provide the U.S. with more excuses to ramp up pressure against the country, the Mehr news agency reported.
Some critics of the bill in the majlis called the move “treasonous.”
The regime aims to enact four bills dealing with FATF demands on money laundering and terror financing, but the Guardian Council – a small body appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – has yet to approve three of them, including the one passed on Sunday, as required under Iran’s constitution.
Time is short: FATF will hold the next of its three-times-a-year plenary meetings in Paris next week, by which time Iran is expected to comply – or risk being hit with the same type of restrictions that North Korea alone in the international community currently faces.
Iran is already struggling due to the return of U.S. sanctions following President Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal. But FATF action would add to the regime’s woes, since even its customary economic and political partners Russia and China are members of the anti-money laundering and anti-terror financing group.
FATF was set up by G7 leaders in 1989 to combat money laundering and tasked after 9/11 to counter terrorist financing. Today is has 35 member-states.
At several consecutive past meetings it agreed to suspend penalties against Iran but at the last one, in June, it warned that Iran must “urgently” take the steps needed by the October meeting, “otherwise, the FATF will decide upon appropriate and necessary actions at that time.”
Until Iran implements the measures, it said, “the FATF will remain concerned with the terrorist financing risk emanating from Iran and the threat this poses to the international financial system.”
Iran is just one of a small handful of countries that has yet to ratify the 1999 Terror Financing Convention. It is also a country whose regime is described by the U.S. as the world’s leading sponsor of state terrorism, with particular focus on its generous funding of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian areas.
Hezbollah and Hamas are both U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations.
‘Resist foreign occupation’
FATF’s “action plan” for Iran includes joining the convention and amending its anti-money laundering and anti-terror financing laws.
It is also targeting Iran’s long-held insistence that terrorism should be defined as excluding actions taken by those fighting against “foreign occupation.”
The FATF says Iran must criminalize terrorist financing, “including by removing the exemption for designated groups ‘attempting to end foreign occupation, colonialism and racism.’”
The occupation exemption or exception has long featured in Islamic states’ discourse on terrorism, designed primarily to justify violent actions by Palestinians against Israelis, and by Pakistan-backed groups against Indian targets in disputed Kashmir.
As recently as last Wednesday, Iran reiterated this stance in New York – not speaking only for itself but on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, a bloc of 120 developing states.
Speaking for NAM during a U.N. General Assembly sixth committee session on terrorism, Iranian delegate Ali Nasimfar said, “We would like to stress that terrorism should not be equated with the legitimate struggle of peoples under the colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation, for self-determination and national liberation.”
Saudi Arabia, speaking for the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), took the same line.
“The group [OIC] reiterates the need to make a distinction between terrorism and the exercise of the legitimate right of peoples to resist foreign occupation,” said Saudi envoy Mohammed Shaker.
Lebanese delegate Youssef Hitti, speaking for a government that includes the Iranian-backed Shi’ite terrorist group Hezbollah, agreed, “International law cannot be distorted or overlooked to equate, for instance, the right to resist foreign occupation with terrorism.”
The statements are in line with the OIC’s Convention on Combating Terrorism, approved in 1999, which declares that, “Peoples’ struggle including armed struggle against foreign occupation, aggression, colonialism, and hegemony, aimed at liberation and self-determination in accordance with the principles of international law shall not be considered a terrorist crime.”