Head of I.R.G.C.’s Khatam al-Anbia Blasts Rouhani’s Economic Policies, Deal with Total

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | Jul 7, 2017
Head of I.R.G.C.’s Khatam al-Anbia Blasts Rouhani’s Economic Policies, Deal with Total

The commander of Khatam al-Anbia Construction Headquarters, a conglomerate of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.), blasted President Hassan Rouhani’s economic policies and said he “harbors a serious grievance against the Rouhani government.”  In an interview with Iran’s state-run television, General Abdollah Abdollahi cautioned that government officials “should not conspire against and instead encourage Sepah [I.R.G.C.]” – claiming that the government owes the I.R.G.C. billions of dollars. He defended I.R.G.C.’s role in the Iranian economy and rejected allegations that I.R.G.C.-affiliated companies undermine the private sector. According to Abdollahi, the conglomerate has designed and implemented 2,500 projects at provincial and national levels since its creation, and currently works with 5,000 implementing partners from the private sector. The I.R.G.C. officials also revealed that a total of 170,000 people currently work on the organization’s projects. He added that his organization has recruited 3,700 graduates from Iran’s leading universities over the past 30 months.

In addition, Abdollahi criticized the Rouhani government’s oil agreement with a consortium led by the French energy giant Total. “If we pay attention to our domestic capabilities instead of looking elsewhere, sanctions will be ineffective.” He refuted claims by officials in the Rouhani government that I.R.G.C. companies undermine foreign investment. “The Headquarters completed the projects which foreigners left behind at the initial stages of sanctions,” he added. “They say the Total firm should use Iranian companies in its agreement. But we should never undermine our dignity by becoming a second-hand partner when we have the capacity ourselves.”

Comment: Abdollahi’s remarks came after Rouhani recently criticized the I.R.G.C.’s involvement in the Iranian economy and pointed out that the Ahmadinejad government had surrendered “parts of the economy from a government without a gun to a government with the gun.”

In the past decade, the I.R.G.C. has turned into Iran's most significant economic powerhouse and dominates the country’s key sectors such as energy, construction, telecommunication, media, mining, electronics, automobile, banking, and shipping, among others.  While I.R.G.C. leaders claim their involvement in the economic sector benefits the Iranian people and economy, in reality the I.R.G.C spends most of the revenues on military expenditures at home and abroad.

Khatam al-Anbia, and other I.R.G.C.-affiliated companies, benefited greatly from the privatization program of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In 2006, the company secured deals worth at least $7 billion in the oil, gas, transportation and other sectors. In October 2007, the U.S. Department of Treasury designated Khatam al-Anbia and several other I.R.G.C. companies under E.O. 13382 as part of a plan to counter Iran’s bid for nuclear capabilities and support for terrorism. And in February, 2010, the Treasury took further action against Khatam al-Anbia by designating the company’s commander, General Rostam Ghassemi, and its subsidiary companies. As the Treasury noted, the I.R.G.C. uses profits from Khatam al-Anbia for its illicit activities, including nuclear proliferation and support for terrorism in the region.

It is worth noting that Khatam al-Anbia is not merely a construction firm. The I.R.G.C. conglomerate has significant political and economic power in Iran and funds I.R.G.C.’s operations abroad. The organization and its front companies also implement projects in regional countries, particularly in conflict zones such as Syria and Iraq.