NewsSpecial WireIran’s Revolutionary Guards take control of Oil Ministry

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards take control of Oil Ministry

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Iran Focus: London, Nov. 05 – The decision by Iran’s hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to nominate a brigadier general of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) with virtually no experience in the oil and financial sectors as the country’s new Oil Minister will give the IRGC unlimited access to an unrivalled source of revenues, boosting its already significant clout. Iran Focus

London, Nov. 05 – The decision by Iran’s hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to nominate a brigadier general of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) with virtually no experience in the oil and financial sectors as the country’s new Oil Minister will give the IRGC unlimited access to an unrivalled source of revenues, boosting its already significant clout.

Like President Ahmadinejad, the 46-year-old Oil Minister-designate, Seyed Sadegh Mahsouli, has spent much of his career in the Islamic Republic’s military and security apparatus. He was for some time the chief of staff of Mohsen Rezai, when the latter was the Commandant of the IRGC.

In a government where many senior officials are in-laws, Mahsouli is the brother-in-law of Ali-Akbar Velayati, the former Foreign Minister who is now the chief foreign policy advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In the 1980s, Mahsouli commanded the IRGC’s Fifth Military District, which covered Iran’s densely-populated northwest, and the strategically-located provinces of East and West Azerbaijan. Under his command, the Revolutionary Guards put down many anti-government protests in the two provinces, which have a history of strong political activism.

Mahsouli was for some time the commander of the IRGC’s Sixth Special Division, an elite force whose units were ferried to trouble spots to deal with unrest and anti-government protests.

He has also served as a Deputy Defence Minister for military planning.

The hard-line-dominated Majlis is widely expected to approve Mahsouli, a close ally of President Ahmadinejad, who was himself a senior commander in the IRGC. The elite military force is loyal and answerable only to the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader.

Despite his impeccable revolutionary credentials, Mahsouli’s experience in the oil sector is virtually non-existent.

“This appointment is about one thing, and nothing else”, Morteza Amjadi, an Iranian financial expert based in the Persian Gulf city of Dubai, said in a telephone interview. “The Revolutionary Guards are taking control of the Oil Ministry and the so-called ‘Oil Mafia’. It’s another bad news for Rafsanjani”.

Amjadi was referring to Iran’s former President Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, whose sons, close relatives, and political protégés have been in control of the Oil Ministry and the shadowy network of privately-owned companies working in Iran’s petroleum sector. Iranians widely refer to the network as “the Oil Mafia”.

Simon Bailey of the London-based Gulf Intelligence Monitor agreed.

“With Khamenei’s blessing, the IRGC has been aggressively increasing its political and economic clout in Iran since the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June”, Bailey said. “The Supreme National Security Council, the cabinet, the IRIB [Iran’s state-run broadcasting corporation”> and many other key institutions are now dominated by the Revolutionary Guards”.

“The IRGC has been extending its economic empire for some time, as the dispute over the Turkcell contract showed”, Bailey said, referring to the IRGC’s successful fight with the Ministry of Telecommunications that eventually led to the ousting of the Turkish company from Iran’s mobile telephone market.

“If the Guards come to dominate the Oil Ministry, this will have potentially significant consequences. There are billions of dollars at stake”, the Dubai-based Amjadi said.

Ahmadinejad had vowed prior to the elections earlier this year that, when in power, he would clean up the “Oil Mafia” in Iran. He left little doubt that he was targeting Rafsanjani’s control of the oil sector.

Iran ranks second in oil production among the OPEC states, accounting for some 80 percent of the country’s export revenues.

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