I.R.G.C. Asks Rouhani for Larger Role in Iran’s Economy

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | Jul 13, 2017
I.R.G.C. Asks Rouhani for Larger Role in Iran’s Economy

The chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) has said that his forces are actively involved in economic and developmental projects across the country and stressed that the I.R.G.C. is keen to further expand its role in the Iranian economy to create jobs and fight poverty. “Sepah [I.R.G.C.] has emerged from within the people and revolution,” Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said on Wednesday. “Therefore, I can never be indifferent to the needs of the revolution and the people,” he added - in tacit reference to President Hassan Rouhani's latest criticism of the I.R.G.C.'s role in the country's economy at the expense of the private sector. Jafari praised Khatam al-Anbia – the I.R.G.C.’s main engineering and construction arm – for its latest water management project in western Iranian provinces. He, however, stressed that for such developmental projects to be successful and sustainable, it is essential to establish security in border regions, particularly in Kurdistan Province. The I.R.G.C. commander called on the Rouhani government to “prepare the ground” for his forces to take advantage of domestic capabilities and local private sector to implement more projects in the future. He claimed the I.R.G.C. is not interested in making profit and its goal is to help the Iranian people.

Comment: In the past decade, the I.R.G.C. has turned into Iran's largest 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 its front companies implement major projects not only inside Iran but also in regional countries, particularly in conflict zones such as Syria and Iraq. The company is one of the main sources of revenue for the I.R.G.C.

Over the past four years, the Rouhani government has failed to rein in the I.R.G.C.’s growing role in the Iranian economy. In April, the commander of Khatam al-Anbia said it would finish ten major projects in the new Iranian year, which began on March 21. According to General Ebadollah Abdollahi, the ten mega-projects the completion of four phases of Iran’s South Pars gas field, completion of the Persian Gulf Star gas condensate refinery, construction of gas and natural gas liquid (N.G.L.) factories, a project to control surface runoff, construction of a freeway south of Tehran, building a high-speed railroad connecting Tehran to Isfahan, development of the southeastern port of Shahid Beheshti, and construction of two steel factories in the cities of Mianeh and Baft. Last year, Abdollahi had announced that $25 billion in investment funds had been allocated to the ten mega-projects, and he had asked for $6 billion more to complete the projects.

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.

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