An international group that monitors and combats money laundering worldwide decided this weekend to keep the Iranian regime on its blacklist of high-risk countries, which included notably Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan; all countries the regime is currently engaged in proxy wars.
At a meeting of its 37 members in South Korea, the Financial Action Task Force also moved to keep North Korea on its blacklist and urged countries to be on guard against Pyongyang’s attempts to bypass sanctions to finance illicit weapons programs.
“The FATF, therefore, calls on its members and urges all jurisdictions to continue to advise their financial institutions to apply enhanced due diligence to business relationships and transactions with natural and legal persons from Iran,” read the statement FATF issued.
The FATF deferred to the potential for the Iran nuclear deal to help motivate Iran’s support of terrorism, and opted to defer further sanctions for another 12 months to see if the Iranian regime follows through on its promises.
But it is interesting to note the FATF only list 11 nations as being high-risk or non-cooperative in the areas of money laundering and support for terrorism and the Iranian regime is affiliated in its support with five of them. Almost half of the nations on the planet engaged in these activities are tied to the mullahs in Tehran.
That is a remarkable achievement for any regime to take, especially one that is constantly defended by the Iran lobby as a peaceful and moderate nation.
The absurdity of that defense reached new levels with a statement issued by the National Iranian American Council’s Tyler Cullis, which welcomed the deferred action by the FATF, but ignored the continued presence of the regime on the blacklist; choosing instead to look at the glass half-full scenario.
“FATF has suspended its call for Member-States and other jurisdictions to impose counter-measures against Iran and its financial institutions, which should send a clear signal to international banks and businesses that economic opportunities with Iran can move forward,” Cullis said.
It’s a rather willfully ignorant statement since the FATF clearly warned member countries to exercise due diligence when dealing with anyone connected to Iran. When applied to financial institutions such as commercial banks, that is a clear warning to stay away from Iranian regime, which virtually all major banks have opted to do given the uncertainty raised by the FATF.
Cullis claims that the regime has made meaningful steps to counter the financing of terrorism in what has to be the biggest obfuscation since Adolf Hitler said Czechoslovakia invited the Nazis in.
Cullis ignores the interception of several Iranian boats attempting to smuggle guns, rockets and ammunition to Houthi rebels in Yemen. Cullis ignores the arming and support Shiite militias in Iraq which are now meting out retribution against Sunni tribes in furthering sectarian bloodshed. Cullis ignores the long-term funding of Hezbollah and the use of terror in the Syrian conflict in targeting civilians and Doctors Without Borders hospitals.
There is good reason why Transparency International ranks the Iranian regime 130th out of 168 countries in the world for corruption with a score of 27 out of 100. Cullis claiming there are meaningful reforms coming from the mullahs in Tehran to combat terrorism is like claiming a butcher shop is trying to go vegan.
Sanctions experts, banking sources and Western officials say little will change regarding financial institutions’ “hands off” approach to Iran, above all due to concerns about the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) omnipresence in the Iranian economy. The IRGC is still under international sanctions, according to Reuters.
“Practically speaking the FATF decision changes little since global financial institutions will continue to voluntarily implement strict counter-measures given their serious concerns over Iran’s illicit financial conduct,” said sanctions expert Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
To further illustrate how Cullis and the rest of the Iran lobby is wrong, the regime’s top mullah Ali Khamenei obliged with yet another warning of violence to a neighbor, in this case Bahrain.
He blasted as “foolishness” a decision by Bahrain’s leaders to strip a top Shi’ite Muslim cleric of his citizenship, and said it could provoke violence from Shi’ites, who make up the majority in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom.
The speech by Khamenei, carried by state media, came after Bahrain’s Sunni authorities stepped up measures against the island’s Shi’ites and stripped their spiritual leader, Ayatollah Isa Qassim, of his citizenship.
“This is blatant foolishness and insanity. When he still could address the Bahraini people, Sheikh Isa Qassim… would advise against radical and armed actions,” Khamenei said in remarks carried by state television on Sunday.
“Attacking Sheikh Isa Qassim means removing all obstacles blocking heroic Bahraini youths from attacking the regime,” he said.
Of course he neglected to mention that Bahrain has long maintained that Iran funnels financial material support to would-be insurgents.
Again, that pesky “funding terrorism” problem.
Aside from funding terrorism, the Iranian regime still remains a black hole for human rights and its continued arrests of foreign nationals alone should keep it in the sanctions pokey.
In the case of Montreal-based university professor, Homa Hoodfar is being held in an Iranian jail and being investigated for “dabbling in feminism and security matters,” according to her family, while in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British woman arrested by regime authorities, who claimed she was being held in solitary confinement for three months because she helped to “design a website.”
If the Iranian regime is afraid of women like these, its days in power are surely numbered.
By Michael Tomlinson