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Excerpts: Big Business: Iranian Revolutionary Guards Force February

Friday, February 10, 2017 8:09
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Excerpts: Big Business: Iranian Revolutionary Guards Force February 10,
+++SOURCE: Al; Arabiya News 10 Feb.’17:”ANALYSIS:Iran’s big business and
IRGC commanders”,by Tony Duheaume


QUOTE:”IRGC is no straightforward military force, its influence stretches
into all facets of Iranian society. (Reuters) “

FULL TEXT:With new US President Donald Trump determined to completely
rewrite the terms of the Iran Deal, the Iranian regime and commanders of its
praetorian guard, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Force (IRGC), will no
doubt soon have to decide whether to continue to pursue their ballistic
missile program, which breaks the terms of the treaty, and will no doubt see
it collapse, or they will have to give up manufacturing and testing such
missiles, to enable them to continue to have vast amounts of cash flowing
their way, from the unfrozen billions of dollars that has been held as a
result of sanctions.

But so far, the cash payments that have been returned have lined the pockets
of the regime’s elite, plus strengthened the country’s military forces, but
none of it has aided the people of Iran, and through appearing to have
abided by the terms of the deal, it has given the regime a much better
standing in the world community. But to take the course of defiance, the
regime would be on a collision course with the US government, and with an
unmovable Donald Trump in control, it could end in armed conflict.

Also read: US may sanction Iran over Yemen, Hezbollah and Iraq

But as far as the accumulation of riches from other sources is concerned,
much of these riches, which both the mullah leadership and the IRGC have
accumulated, have come their way through running the countries state-owned
industries, and other lucrative enterprises, which through the lifting of
sanctions under the Iran Deal, will be able to deal openly on the world
market, and thus doing so, will strengthen the private bank accounts of both
the mullah leadership, and their much pampered IRGC commanders.

Influential force:As far as the IRGC is concerned, it is no straightforward
military force, its influence stretches into all facets of Iranian society,
and since its creation, its commanders have been afforded seats in
parliament, and although the attaining of seats is significantly lower under
the Rouhani administration, the Guards are still a very powerful force in
the running of the country.

Adding to the esteem of IRGC, Iranian lawmakers have recently approved a
rise in the defense budget to 5 percent, as well as approving a program to
develop long range missiles. But to show the true arrogance of IRGC
commanders, they flaunted the terms of the nuclear agreement, by carrying
out the test flight of a new medium-range missile earlier this year, said to
be capable of carrying nuclear warheads. This test flight incurred the wrath
of President Donald Trump, who in turn introduced a series of extra
sanctions, which will hit companies owned by the Guards, bringing about a
travel ban on business associates who run their lucrative empire.

From its humble beginnings as a lightly armed paramilitary force, created by
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, to introduce order to the streets of Iran
during the early days of the revolution, and to protect its leader at all
costs, the Guards have evolved into not only a powerful political force, but
also the controllers of a powerful military-industrial-financial complex.

With a large proportion of Iran’s most profitable businesses under the
control of its commanders, including the nuclear industry, all of which has
been heaped upon them by various leaders to ensure their loyalty to the
regime, their influence among the regime’s elite is unassailable.

So as well as exerting great political power, the Guards have gradually
built up a vast business empire in various sectors of the Iranian economy,
and from humble beginnings in the construction trade, they now dominate
several lucrative industries. Through a myriad of holding companies, front
companies and so-called “charitable foundations”, the IRGC run their vast
business empire.

The black money:Having used these organizations to work around international
sanctions imposed on the country, through its refusal to allow International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of its nuclear facilities, the
Guards have become very adept in the workings of the black economy, using
its control of customs and excise and the docks, to set up a substantial
smuggling network.

Such is the scope of the Guards enterprises, they have also ventured into
the lucrative oil and gas sectors, moved into the production of consumer
goods, car manufacturing, the import-export industry, telecommunications,
and black market smuggling. Just like the American Mafia, the Guards have
built up varied routes to smuggle goods, and are said to be in control of a
string of jetties on the southern Iranian island of Qeshm, situated in the
strategic Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf Coast.

The Guards also have the use of terminals at Iranian airports, to enable
members of their vast workforce to fly their illicit goods in and out of the
country unchecked, and whichever route they use, they are guaranteed to
avoid having to pay any form of export or import duties.

Operating what has become a powerful criminal empire, the Guards have long
been involved in the black market, and by shipping in and out of the country
various illegal goods, which includes vast caches of weapons, they have
built up a highly lucrative business. The Guards also have a large stake in
the illegal drugs industry, using the vast drugs network setup by Hezbollah,
which enables the IRGC Qods Force to deal with various major players
throughout the world.

When you consider that sales of illegal drugs in Iran is around $3 billion
per year, with the Qods Force said to be taking a sizeable cut, through the
running of many of the routes in and out of the country, as well as having
contacts with drug smuggling gangs in Afghanistan, and also South America
through Hezbollah, their wealth is vast through this alone. So it isn’t
surprising that the US Department of the Treasury had placed Qods Force
Commander Gholamreza Baghbani on the US sanctions list, accusing him of
being a narcotics kingpin.

Over the years, various ex-members of the IRGC, who now live in exile, have
made highly credible claims, on how the corps they had served in for many
years, had been dealing in vast amounts of illegal drugs, and that the
global network it was running, was bringing in billions of dollars, which
would then be used to pay for terrorist activities carried out by the Qods
Force across the globe.

The druge industry:The Iranian regime has been committed to the so-called
cracking down on the illegal drugs industry in Iran for many years, there
have been a vast number of shootouts between traffickers and security
forces, with hundreds of so-called drug smugglers executed annually by the
authorities, some for simply possessing illegal drugs. But behind this
massive crackdown, the IRGC was dealing in heroin, cocaine, opium and
amphetamines, and the crackdown was simply to protect its own profits
against rival gangs.

But one of the main problems that comes from hitting the IRGC in the pocket,
is its notoriety for hitting back, as has already been shown in its defiance
of Donald Trump’s warning on Iran’s missile tests, when new sanctions had
been introduced, and the Guards carried out massive military drills in
defiance the following day.

These drills had enabled the IRGC to assess its ability to defend the
country against attack, through testing various homemade missile systems,
which included the long-range Qadir radar system said to have a tracking
range of over 1,000 kilometres, the Kavosh low altitude radar system
designed to track threats including cruise missiles and various aircraft,
and as well as these, they also tested the ability of command and control
centres, and cyber warfare systems.

Also, since the introduction of extra sanctions, threats have already been
made against Bahrain and the Gulf nations by IRGC commanders, and any extra
pressure applied on the IRGC by the Trump administration, would most
certainly in the long run have the negative effect of pushing its Qods Force
into restarting the export of terrorism on a large scale.
Sue Lerner – Associate, IMRA


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