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Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif delivers a speech to parliament in Tehran on October 7, 2018, on a bill to counter terrorist financing. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

On Oct. 19, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental organization that sets standards for countries to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, gave Iran an extension until February 2019 to implement its plan to address “strategic deficiencies” in these areas.

Why it matters: The U.S., which currently holds the FATF presidency and wants to impose “unprecedented financial pressure” on Iran, almost certainly opposed the extension. Washington’s inability to carry the debate demonstrates the diplomatic shortcomings of its unilateral approach to Iran.

The background: Iran was on FATF’s blacklist and subject to countermeasures that all but shut Iran off from licit international finance from 2008 through 2016. For much of that time, Iran’s only company was North Korea, though many of Iran’s shortcomings were more comparable to those of Pakistan, a country that moved on and off the much less effectual “gray list” over the same period.

In 2016, FATF gave Iran one year to implement an action plan to address terrorist financing, during which time they would stay on the blacklist but without countermeasures. FATF also gave Iran access to international bank transactions that were difficult and expensive, but not impossible.

That grace period has been extended repeatedly as Iran makes slow progress on its action plan. Most recently, the government won parliamentary approval for a new law to counter terrorist financing. But FATF will not complete its evaluation of the law until it is ratified by Iran’s top clerical council.

What’s next: Even if the new law is ratified, Iran will face deep skepticism from other FATF members, as it's thought unlikely to take steps — either in law or practice — that discourage providing financial support to long-time terrorist clients such as Hezbollah. The intense opposition FATF has encountered from Iranian hardliners does suggest, however, that the proposed reforms could have some real bite if implemented.

Reality check: After the Iran nuclear deal led to sanctions relief, Tehran realized that it needed FATF liberalization to foster business with Europe and elsewhere. But now that the U.S. is re-imposing sanctions, Iran will struggle to sustain trade regardless of what FATF does. Europe is offering political support and a modest trade channel if Iran continues to meet its nuclear deal obligations, but that support will be harder to sustain if Iran slips back into the FATF countermeasures category.

Jarrett Blanc is a senior fellow in the Geoeconomics and Strategy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Go deeper

Hollywood union reaches deal with studios to avert strike

Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

A Hollywood workers' union reached a tentative deal with studios, networks and streamers that will guarantee better working conditions, meal breaks and increased wages for low-paid workers, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) announced Saturday night.

Why it matters: The deal, which still needs to be ratified by IATSE members, will avert a nationwide strike by film and television workers that was set to start Monday. It would have been the first strike in the union's 128-year history.

Bill Clinton released from hospital following treatment for non-COVID infection

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former President Bill Clinton was discharged from the University of California, Irvine Medical Center on Sunday, nearly a week after he was admitted for a non-COVID-related infection, according to his spokesperson Angel Ureña.

What they're saying: "His fever and white blood cell count are normalized and he will return home to New York to finish his course of antibiotics," wrote Dr. Alpesh Amin, who has been overseeing the team of doctors treating Clinton. "On behalf of everyone at UC Irvine Medical Center, we were honored to have treated him and will continue to monitor his progress."

Worth noting: Clinton had a urinary tract infection that spread to his bloodstream, per CNN.

  • The California-based medical team had been administering IV antibiotics and fluids, and was in constant communication with Clinton's New York team, including his cardiologist, according to the former president's physicians.
  • President Biden spoke by phone with Clinton on Friday to see how he was doing, and the catch-up included a discussion of recent politics.
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Older brands, trends and technologies are making a comeback as younger consumers desperately chase slower, less chaotic times.

The big picture: TikTok's algorithm makes it easy for flashback items to resurface and quickly go viral both on its platform and eventually on other social networks.