US treasury secretary Timothy Geithners denunciation of
Iran at last weekends IMF spring meetings suggests that
Washington is resistant to change in its dealings
with Tehran, Iranian economy minister Shamseddin Hosseini has
Geithner told the International Monetary and Financial
Committee (IMFC), the IMFs ruling body, that the US
remains particularly concerned about the risks of illicit
finance emanating from Iran. He called for enhanced
vigilance on money laundering and financing of terror.
Hosseini told Emerging Markets in an interview that he had been
astonished by the strongly-worded passage in
Geithners speech, to a meeting focused on the
international response to the global economic crisis.
Geithner called for the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to
cooperate closely with the international financial
institutions, and singled out Iran for criticism. The
international community should implement countermeasures
to protect the international financial system from the money
laundering and terror financing risks emanating from
Iran, he said.
But Hosseini argued that the issue had been
irrelevant to the IMFCs agenda, and
Geithners focus on it unexpected
especially since in the first months of [the Obama
presidency] we hear a lot about change.
The US has campaigned for several years for international
institutions to take a tough line on alleged terror financing
via Iranian banks. Tehran says that money laundering is
strictly forbidden in Islam and in Iranian law, and that it has
tightened its regulatory regime to deal with it.
A statement delivered to the IMFC meeting on Irans behalf
said that a recent IMF mission to Iran concluded that the
Iranian authorities have made progress on anti-money laundering
rules, and that the Iranian penal code includes anti-terrorism
International institutions behaviour has been
unfair and discriminatory, Hosseini said. The FATF
had been invited to Iran several times. The FATF
could not be reached for comment.
The FATFs most recent plenary meeting, in February,
issued a statement that welcomed Irans initial
engagement with the international community on money
laundering, but expressed concern about Irans
failure to meaningfully address deficiencies in its
legislation. The FATF was particularly concerned about
Irans failure to address the risk of terrorist
Hosseini said that Geithners stance was
unexpected in the context of an apparent recent
thawing of attitudes in Washington. We didnt put
forward the motto of change, but we said that we welcome it, if
its real and honest, he said.
The question is whether [Geithners statement] is in
line with change or against it. I interpret it as resistant to
change. I hope the will for change is enough to stop this
stubborn kind of behaviour.
While president Obama has made positive overtures to Tehran,
hawks in Washington including the pro-Israeli lobby
are pushing for a more aggressive policy.
A bipartisan proposal went to Congress last week urging that
sanctions be spread to firms that export oil products to Iran
which analysts say would quickly exact a heavy toll on
the Iranian economy, analysts say.