Washington Times: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the target last week of new U.S. financial sanctions, plays a far larger role in Iran’s economy than previous studies have suggested, according to a report compiled by a leading Iranian resistance group. The Washington Times
By David R. Sands
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the target last week of new U.S. financial sanctions, plays a far larger role in Iran’s economy than previous studies have suggested, according to a report compiled by a leading Iranian resistance group.
IRGC business enterprises, ranging from construction and insurance to importing consumer goods and car parts, have flourished under hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to information supplied to The Washington Times by the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
The NCRI, an emigre group advocating the overthrow of the Islamist regime in Tehran, said in a study that the Revolutionary Guard Corps controls 30 percent of Iran’s non-oil exports and more than half the country’s imports, in addition to vast new contracts to develop Iran’s oil and gas fields.
“Today, various executive and economic instruments of [the Iranian government”> are practically controlled by the IRGC,” NCRI foreign affairs spokesman Mohammad Mohaddessin said.
The Bush administration, citing Iran’s role in supporting terrorism and weapons proliferation, last week imposed sanctions on the Guard Corps and its affiliate, the Quds Force, as well as on three of the country’s largest banks.
The NCRI, which broke with Iran’s Islamist leadership shortly after the 1979 revolution that toppled the shah, occupies an ambiguous position. The U.S. government has formally designated it a terrorist organization, but its inside intelligence on Tehran’s nuclear and military activities has been verified repeatedly by U.S. and Western analysts.
The IRGC, which operates outside Iran’s conventional armed forces, has openly operated a wide range of commercial and investment enterprises. But the new NCRI data suggest that U.S. and international financial sanctions may be aiming at a bigger target than previously thought.
The report said the IRGC operates more than 500 companies, with branch offices throughout the Middle East as well as Europe, East Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The NCRI said the Guard Corps’ business operations make it the third largest enterprise in the country, behind only the national oil company and a religious foundation based in the city of Mashhad.
Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., in announcing the U.S. sanctions last week, said, “It is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran, you are doing business with the IRGC.”
The U.S. sanctions have met with a mixed reaction inside Iran, with the regime denouncing the move but some critics using the sanctions to slam Mr. Ahmadinejad’s handling of the domestic economy.
Saeed Jalili, a former top IRGC official recently named the country’s lead nuclear negotiator, said “Washington will isolate itself” with the latest round of sanctions.
“They have imposed sanctions on us for 28 years. The new sanctions are just in the same direction,” he told the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.
But Mohsen Mirdamadi, secretary-general of Iran’s leading reformist party, said Mr. Ahmadinejad’s hard-line views and aggressive rhetoric were harming Iran’s cause.
Mr. Mirdamadi told political supporters in Tehran on Friday that “new sanctions and even more dangerous actions” could result from the president’s “self-praise, and his sudden and overnight decisions,” according to Agence France-Presse.