Tehran has so far made no official response to the Bush administration’s plan to blacklist Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps a “specially designated global terrorist.” The decision is due to be announced in early September, to coincide with the UN Security Council’s session for imposing a third set of hitherto ineffectual sanctions on Iran for defying UN resolutions barring uranium enrichment.
It would be the first time a US government has targeted the business operations and finances of a military branch which is a part of the government of a UN member.
Unofficially, sources in Tehran termed this measure a further American propaganda step in its war of nerves against Iran.
But off the record, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Iranian sources divulge a certain amount of concern in ruling circles. The Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Pasdaran – whose full title is Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution – has grown into a world-class business empire consuming the national economy slice after slice. Penalties meted out to the IRGC would inevitably damage Iran’s national economy.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly offers an incomplete list of the enterprises which it controls. Even this partial account is mostly unknown to the general public:
1. Absolute control of all the imports and exports relating to Iran’s military activities – from equipment and materials for its nuclear and missiles programs, warships, submarines, tanks and down to mortars, rifles and ammunition.
2. Thousands of straw companies across the world disguise the IRGC’s extensive smuggling system, which may be the world’s largest organized network trafficking in illegal arms, aircraft components and other military items left over from the days when the Shah did business with the US. It was revealed this month that the Pentagon mistakenly sold one of these fake companies spare parts for the US F-14 fighter planes still in service with revolutionary Iran’s air force.
Untold wealth from hijacked resources and smuggling
3. Total control of Khomeini international airport in North Tehran promises the IRGC unfettered license for the conduct of its vast import-export dealings.
4. The Pasdaran’s naval arm governs all Iran’s seaports on its Persian Gulf and Caspian shores.
5. The IRGC has carved out about 40 autonomous harbors operating outside the law on the Iranian coasts of the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and the Arabian Sea to handle the immense traffic generated by their smuggling network. It has branches in the Gulf emirates, the Indian Ocean nations of East Africa and the Red Sea ports of Egypt and Sudan. Smugglers also serve the Revolutionary Guards from Adriatic outposts in Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia.
The IRGC reaps untold wealth by releasing to retailers in Iran astronomical quantities of contraband goods, such as cigarettes.
6. The Pasdaran has cornered Iran’s gasoline import trade, another cornucopia, because the oil-rich Islamic Republic imports more than 40% of its gasoline consumption. To preserve this lucrative source of income, the IRGC moves heaven and earth to prevent Iran extending its oil refining industry.
7. Having bought up all the country’s heavy engineering equipment, the Revolutionary Guards have made themselves the biggest building contractors, not only in Iran but the entire Persian Gulf and Middle East.
8. The IRGC has lately moved in on the national oil industry, especially prospecting for new fields. Its leaders wangled the dismissal last week of Iran’s oil minister Mostafa Vaziri Hamaneh, who was the last government official to stand up to the Pasdaran’s pressure and fight off their takeover.
9. They are now targeting Iran’s pharmaceutical imports, another money-spinner. First, they engineered an artificial shortage of medications most in demand and then began feeding them to the black market which they also control.
10. The automobile industry is victimized by a crude protection racket run unabashedly by the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution.
Pasdaran corners national projects
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Iran experts explain the ease with which the Revolutionary Guards have hijacked one section of the national economy after another with the full knowledge of heads of government and the blessing of some:
· Vast sums are required to keep the national nuclear and missile programs afloat and pay the 125,000-strong IRGC fighting force. In the name of “exporting revolution”, the Al-Qods Force, which organizes, trains, equips and finances terrorist organiztions outside the country, needs mountains of cash to finance elements fighting the Americans in Iraq, Hizballah and the Palestinian groups making war on Israel, Hamas and Jihad Islami. The state lacks the resources to support these causes and so falls back on the Revoltionary Guards and their nefarious methods of raising cash.
· The Pasdaran contains the largest pool in the country of managerial talent, equipment and technology for undertaking large-scale national projects.
In clawing for control, Pasdaran is not shy of any means, fair or foul. Two years, ago, IRGC armored personnel carriers commandeered the newly-opened Khomeini international airport’s control towers and runways and halted its operations. Their reason? A Turkish company had been contracted by President Muhammad Khatami to administer the facility.
The siege was lifted only after the government in Tehran bowed to IRGC demands to cancel the contract with the Turkish company and sign a new one with the Pasdaran.