Rouhani Backs Zarif amid Rising Internal Tensions
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday justified his deafening silence towards the heated war of words between conservatives and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif by saying it is meant to promote restraint and prevent a national crisis.
Rouhani denounced politicians for engaging in name-calling and fierce accusations of corruption and money laundering, saying that fraud and crime are two problems facing countries across the world.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting, he said: “Why do we fight over such obvious issues? Yes, the entire world is suffering from money laundering. Show me one country in the whole world in which money laundering does not take place and show me one country in the whole world in which corruption, narcotics and fake products do not exist.”
“All of us should strive against money laundering and corruption,” he said, asking: “Why are we bickering with each other so much?”
Responding to criticisms, Rouhani further said corruption, bribery and drug addiction exist in Iran, and “we should not get angry with someone for stating these issues.”
Ultra-conservative lawmakers have been eyeing means to take down the diplomatic team appointed by Rouhani, considered a moderate reformist by many.
Iran’s internal dispute is rising at a time the country is struggling to counter tough US re-imposed economic sanctions and to salvage its national economy.
On November 11, Zarif had said that those who make billions of dollars from money laundering are spending millions of them to prevent the approval of the bills on more financial transparency.
Zarif's stance sparked wide reactions among Iranian political officials, and on Sunday reports emerged over his possible dismissal.
The chief Iranian diplomat was also summoned for more explanation to the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, forcing him to reiterate that he had not accused any state-run institution of money laundering.
On Monday, Judiciary Chief Sadeq Larijani criticized Zarif’s remarks, saying: “If widespread money laundering exists in the country, why haven’t you reported this issue?”
The conservative Tasnim news agency, which is close to the Revolutionary Guards, quoted a member of parliament as saying that a motion for Zarif’s dismissal is being prepared to be put to a vote.
The minister has been demanded by lawmakers to submit whatever evidence he has to support his corruption claims by Tuesday, but he has so far failed to do so.
Zarif’s claims followed the Guardian Council rejecting and demanding 11 revisions for passing legislation to join the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
European countries have made demands that Iran up its game on leashing terror funding. Joining the Anti-Terrorism Funding FATF is one of those demands. By rejecting FATF, Iran runs the risk of losing whatever fragile support it has from the international community.
Zarif had told Iranian authorities that strong allies, such as China and Russia, are weighing in for Tehran to join the FATF.
Iran’s ultra-conservative political partied are concerned with the FATF blocking Revolutionary Guards activity abroad by cutting funds to proxy militias, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthis in Yemen. The Guards’ foreign arm, the Quds Force, looks to be the most threatened by the FATF.