In a move that is sure to cause disquiet amongst the international diplomatic community, Iranian politicians voted on Sunday, June 10, to suspend debate on a bill that could lead to their country’s participation in the United Nations International Convention for the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism.
The outcome of this vote, backed by hard-line clerics and conservative student groups, will leave Iran as one of only two countries, alongside North Korea, on the blacklist of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the Paris-based intergovernmental body tasked with monitoring anti-terror financing standards around the world.
The FATF had previously agreed to relax its standing on Iran while measures were being taken by the regime in Tehran to implement policies that would make it harder for individuals and groups in the country to launder money or finance extremism.
However, in a damning criticism of Iran’s commitment to this programme, the FATF announced that the majority of the promised reforms hadn’t come to pass. Notably, the organisation attacked Iranian lawmakers for failing to adequately criminalise terror financing.
Prior to the vote, it has been reported that the Parliamentary Speaker’s offices in Qom played host to gangs of protestors demanding that discussion about joining the UN’s anti-terror convention be halted. Concerns were raised by Iranian conservatives that the UN’s framework would affect the flow of cash to radical groups like Hamas and Hezbollah across the Middle East and beyond.
Over the years, Iran’s leaders have poured billions of dollars into Middle Eastern terror organisations, Shia militant groups, and complex cybercrime networks the world over. They have also been accused of using the specialised branch of their military, IRGC Quds Force, to train brutal militias in countries like Yemen.
While refusing to adapt to the UN anti-terror conventions, Iran will still be subject to sanctions from the FATF and the United States, but it will be able to maintain its network of proxy forces across the Middle East; the two pillars of Iran’s regional influence being, of course, radical ideology and money.
It is as yet unclear how this vote will affect Iran’s relations with Europe. The leaders of the United Kingdom, France and Germany have been cosying up to the regime in Tehran since US President Donald Trump withdrew his Administration’s support for the Iranian Nuclear deal last month, and so will likely attempt to overlook this most recent development.
But this is certainly the wrong course of action to take with a country repeatedly labelled the world’s most brazen and prolific state sponsor of terror. Iran’s leaders must be held to account for their irresponsible and dangerous agenda.