Iran General NewsIran opposition says elite militia tightening grip on econ

Iran opposition says elite militia tightening grip on econ

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Dow Jones: An Iranian opposition group alleged Thursday that new information contained in a confidential government report obtained by the opposition showed the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards militia force had tightened its grip on the Iranian economy. DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

By Selina Williams

OF DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

LONDON (Dow Jones)–An Iranian opposition group alleged Thursday that new information contained in a confidential government report obtained by the opposition showed the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards militia force had tightened its grip on the Iranian economy.

The Revolutionary Guards now control over half of the country’s non-oil imports and a third of its non-oil exports, said Hussein Abedini, foreign affairs committee member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

The source of the information is a confidential Iranian government report obtained by members of the Iranian opposition from within the regime, Abedini said.

In the past, the NCRI has passed on intelligence to Washington on Iran’s nuclear program and paramilitary operations. In August 2002, the NCRI’s information was proven correct when it said Tehran was pursuing a secret nuclear program.

Abedini alleged the Revolutionary Guards, which were formed in 1979 and played a crucial role in the nation’s Islamic revolution, have also been involved in the smuggling of Iraqi oil from Iraq’s southern oil ports.

“The Revolutionary Guards is becoming the most powerful financial and political entity in Iran, especially in the current president’s time when it has been given total control over the Iranian economy,” Abedini told a news conference in London.

He said a third of Iran’s imports enter the country through 60 unofficial shipping ports controlled by the Revolutionary Guards and through certain airports also used by the group.

According to the report, over 500 companies of different sizes belonging to the Revolutionary Guards are currently operating in other countries and at least 483 “front companies” or those linked with the militia group have offices in the United Arab Emirates – a country that has strong trade ties with Iran.

“In the past four years, the Revolutionary Guards, through its front companies and networks, have smuggled over $20 billion worth of Iraqi oil,” Abedini said.

Last year Khatam al-Anbiya, one of the firms now targeted by new U.S. sanctions, won a $2.3 billion contract to develop part of a giant gas field in Iran. It’s also involved in building a $1.3 billion gas pipeline.

According to the U.S. Treasury, Khatam al-Anbiya has secured deals worth at least $7 billion in sectors including oil, gas and transportation.

A spokesman at the Iranian Embassy in London said the NCRI’s allegations regarding the Revolutionary Guards weren’t true.

“They (the NCRI) are very skillful at fabricating lies. They’re not a trustworthy body and these things aren’t worth commenting on because they’re not true – they’re propaganda,” the spokesman said.

On Oct. 25, the U.S. slapped new sanctions on Iran specifically targeting the Revolutionary Guards, which Washington accuses of supporting terrorism by backing Shiite militants in Iraq.

The move bars U.S. dealings with businesses with links to the Guards and increases pressure on international banks to cut any ties with those companies. Since the U.S. first imposed sanctions on Tehran in 1979, European companies have continued to operate in Iran, in sectors from oil to banking.

According to the report the NCRI had obtained, a significant chunk of the $40 billion worth of trade and investment between Iran and the European Union is carried out by the Revolutionary Guards and companies affiliated to it.

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