- The Washington Times - Friday, February 21, 2020

The head of Iran’s Guardian Council, the body charged with defending the country’s Islamist constitution, on Friday mocked new sanctions imposed this week by the Trump administration on five members of the Council for sharply restricting voters’ choices in Friday’s national elections.

The State Department announced the sanctions on Guardian Council Secretary Ahmad Jannati and four colleagues Thursday on the eve of parliamentary elections expected to bring major gains for hard-line parties opposed to President Hassan Rouhani. The council “vets” potential candidates and excluded some 7,000 candidates from running, including 90 sitting Parliament members allied to Mr. Rouhani.

Mr. Jannati jokingly dismissed the impact of the sanctions, saying he and other Iranian leaders have no assets in the U.S. that would be affected by the order.

“Now I’m thinking about what we should do with all the money we have in American funds,” the Guardian Council chief told Iran’s Tasnim News Agency Friday as he visited a Tehran polling station. “We can no longer go to Christmas celebrations in the U.S.”

Analysts say the outcome of Friday’s vote — and the size of the turnout from a disaffected electorate — could prove a key test for the government, which is struggling with increased pressure from the U.S. and its allies in the region and domestic unhappiness over the weak state of the economy.

Tehran faced another setback Friday with reports that a global money laundering body was poised to put the country on its official blacklist, saying Iran failed to meet international norms on curbing financing for terrorist groups. The move is likely to mean even tougher scrutiny of Iran’s international deals and have a chilling effect on the few banks and investors willing to defy international sanctions and operate in Iran.

The move followed three years of warnings from the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that Iran had failed to raise its financial controls and pass anti-terror financing laws.

Iranian officials tried to downplay the impact of the FATF sanctions, and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told reporters that the global body acted under pressure from the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia.

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