It is wonderful news that the British Embassy is to reopen in Tehran. In saying this, I must declare an interest to state that I have been very fortunate to have travelled to Tehran on 2 occasions, and to have enjoyed the hospitality of my Iranian hosts within the banking sector.
I was invited to Tehran to teach anti-money laundering best practice to Bank Saderat staff, and the visit proved to be so positive and open-handed that I was invited to return to teach a large number of Iranian bank staff from all over the country.
The success of these visits, and the initiatives that flowed therefrom were subsequently deliberately undermined by American agents with close ties to Israel who did not want Iran to be perceived to be trying to provide full compliance with international anti-money laundering initiatives.
The reopening of Britain's embassy in Tehran will now consolidate the normalisation of relations after a very bumpy period.
While relations were not formally broken off, they were reduced to the lowest level possible.
Ties have slowly been warming but it is clearly the successful conclusion of the nuclear accord with Iran that has paved the way for the embassy reopening.
A number of other European countries have already sent ministers and trade delegations hotfoot to Tehran in the wake of the nuclear deal. The hope now is that better diplomatic ties and stronger economic links might help to bolster more reform-minded elements in the Iranian leadership and open up Iranian society to new pressures for change.
One of the earliest changes I hope will take place will be a re-opening and re-negotiation of Iran’s relationship with the Financial Action task Force, the international body designated to oversee global anti-money laundering best practice standards.
In late 2007, the FATF had made a series of public pronouncements dealing with its relations with Iran, and its concern with a perceived lack of good compliance by Iran with accepted global standards of best practice, and threatening further interventionist action.
Early In 2008 I was contracted by the Iranian Bank Saderat to teach anti-money laundering best practice to Iranian bankers, my first visit covering a 5 day period during which I lectured to about 100 practitioners.
The banking response to this visit was to invite me back to lecture again to about 800 bankers from all over the country. I was inundated by a very large number of decent men and women, all of whom wanted to be educated in global aml systems and controls in a 'best practice' model, and who wished to be 100% globally compliant with FATF requirements.
At the end of my visits, I became the willing intermediary between the Central Bank of Iran and the FATF in Paris, during which I encouraged and later facilitated the first visit of an Iranian delegation to the FATF.
I was asked to interpret an FATF letter to the Iranian Government dealing with AML compliance and I was happy to be able to draft a response to be sent by Iran to Paris, responding positively to an invitation to engage with the FATF.
Subsequently, I was invited to attend the meeting in Paris as a consultant to the Iranian delegation, although I was not allowed to attend the Plenary meeting, the only attendees being Government and FATF officials and invitees.
I was able to be present at the post meeting discussion with the Iranian delegates and to advise on the outcomes. I was therefore a witness to the entire process with the exception of the plenary meeting itself, the entire contents of which were subsequently reported to me by the Iranians and FATF staffers.
During this visit, the Iranians were able to demonstrate their working model of aml interdiction, and they left this very cordial and helpful meeting with the knowledge of how their requirements would need to be increased and further developed.
So successful was this meeting that it resulted in an invitation to return to Paris for working meetings with FATF professionals and staffers, at which I would have been permitted to be present, to further develop their methodologies along the correct lines.
As a direct result of this thawing of relations between Iran and the FATF, the agency made a public announcement on 28th February 2008, that it did not intend to take any further AML/CTF interventionist action against Iran, following the publication of its earlier notice in October 2007.
The FATF notice stated;
“…Since its October 2007 Plenary meeting, the FATF has engaged with Iran and welcomes the commitment made by Iran to improve its AML/CFT regime. Consistent with its Statement on Iran, dated 11 October 2007, the FATF confirms its call to its members and urges all jurisdictions to advise their financial institutions to take the risk arising from the deficiencies in Iran’s AML/CFT regime into account for enhanced due diligence. Iran is encouraged to continue its engagement with the FATF and the international community to address, on an urgent basis, its AML/CFT deficiencies...”
The FATF specifically recognized therefore the commitment made by Iran to improve its AML regime and encouraged it to continue the same. The FATF had the power to impose other sanctions against Iran, but because of its open and transparent cooperation with the FATF, it has chosen not to alter the existing situation, and would continue to work with Iran to remedy all deficiencies.
However, this state of affairs had not satisfied those officials in the US Government who had close ties to the State of Israel and whose ambitions were to harm Iran at every possible opportunity.
No sooner had the likelihood of Iran’s improving relations become apparent, then the Americans commenced a whole programme of deliberate untruths, downright lies and cynical disinformation which was planted in the US press, which completely spun a whole new interpretation on the facts of and the reasons for the Paris visit.
On Saturday 16th February 2008, the International Press Agencies all began carrying reports of a ‘secret’ meeting held between US and Iranian officals in Paris earlier in January.
Depending upon which agency you read determined what story you received, but suffice it to say that the majority of the articles carried by the US agencies all placed a major US ‘spin’ on the piece.
Take this as a typical example from the Kansas City Star;
“US secretly met Iran banking officials”
‘…A US official met secretly with Iranian banking officials and senior government aides who oppose punishing the Islamic nation for not doing enough to stop money laundering and terrorism funding…
The United States was represented by Daniel Glaser, the Treasury Department’s deputy assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes…The meeting was part of the Bush administration’s attempts to ramp up international pressure on Iran to halt atomic activities that could lead to the development of nuclear weapons…’
No mention was made of the real reason for the Paris meeting, or the Iranian initiatives in seeking to become more compliant with global initiatives.
The way this story was reported placed a wholly inaccurate interpretation on the events, and attempted to portray the US’s part in these events in a fictitious light. It was yet another example of the way that the US Treasury continued to disseminate a stream of disinformation about Iranian affairs, particularly Iranian banking and financial affairs, as part of a deliberate US policy to destabilise the Iranian state and its internal economic policies.
As the Kansas City Star stated quite openly;
‘…Washington has boasted that the US and existing UN sanctions, have taken a significant toll on Iran’s economy, particularly on its unemployment and inflation rates and raised pressure on the Government…’
The real FATF meeting in Paris was co-chaired by the Italian representative and the US representative, Daniel Glaser. Quite why the US representative was chosen to chair this delicate meeting is not clear, his political leanings should have made it obvious that he should not have played a leading role..
The meeting was reported to be cordial, focused and covered a wide range of issues. The Americans it was reported, played no particularly significant part over any other participant, nor was the meeting anything to do with any policy initiatives on their part, either in Paris or elsewhere. They were merely present at the meeting in the same way as the other FATF representatives, all of whom would have expected the meetings to be kept confidential.
At this time, agents of the US Treasury were in Europe, seeking to bring significant economic pressure on the Iranian banking community by threatening other banks and international businesses who had business with Iran that the US would seek to impose draconian penalties on those entities if they continued to do business with Iran.
The pressure for these unfair activities had been directed from and by agents of the office of Stuart Levey, the then US Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. By focusing on the tactics of pressurizing foreign companies who traded or dealt with Iran to drop their business activities, Levey and his team engaged in a wide range of activities designed to bring financial and commercial pressure on Iran. Their aim was to bring about a revolution from within Iran by so destabilizing the economy of the country that regime change would be effected through a popular revolution.
In view of the proximity of Mr Glaser to Mr Levey, it might have been thought obvious that the Iranians might not unreasonably feel that their own transparent deliberations with the FATF were being wholly undermined by Mr Glaser’s position as co-chair of the meetings, as he was a direct satrap of the very official who was doing everything he could to unfairly undermine the Iranian economy.
It is surely no accident that having observed the willing acceptance by Iran of the FATF invitation to enter multilateral discussions, followed by an even more recent announcement of the passing of the Iranian law outlawing money laundering, that the Americans could easily see that their widely trumpeted allegations of Iranian regulatory non-compliance would now begin to ring a bit hollow.
Hence, the sudden outburst of articles all claiming US initiatives for engaging in the meetings, and playing up their involvement.
All this intervention so outraged the Iranians that they immediately withdrew from all further FATF negotiations, because they no longer trusted the process.
This of course, was always the intended result from the US point of view, because they could not bear to contemplate the possibility that Iran might become a respected and compliant member of FATF, because this would immediately give the lie to US terrorist-funding allegations, a major plank of their demands for international sanctions against Iran.
Now that the opportunities exist for a greater degree of cooperation with Tehran, it is to be hoped that the Iranians can be re-invited to come back to the discussion table and to re-enter their meetings with FATF officials, to ensure that their international compliance can finally be recognised as a reality.