Sunday, August 19, 2007

Iranian Guard financial holdings extensive

From The Washington Times, August 16, 2007 By David R. Sands ....

Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, which faces the prospect of severe U.S. financial sanctions as a "terrorist organization," represents a tempting target given its multibillion-dollar commercial empire ranging from oil fields to honeybee farms.

Bush administration officials yesterday insisted that no decision had been made on the terrorist designation, but acknowledged privately that the move to sanction Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was under active consideration and, if approved, could be announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice within the month.

....The U.S. terrorist designation would freeze any U.S. assets of the IRGC, but financial analysts say its greater practical effect would be to discourage companies and banks from other nations from working with the corps' various subsidiaries.

....The IRGC, formed specifically to preserve the Islamic republic after the ouster of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in the 1979 revolution, has long been a player in the Iranian economy. The force, which is separate from Iran's regular military services, is authorized by the constitution to own and develop commercial enterprises in peacetime. But the IRGC's financial scope has expanded dramatically with the election of Islamic hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president in 2005.

According to a survey by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, the IRGC's engineering arm, known as the Ghorb Khatam, won a string of major contracts from the Ahmadinejad government, including a $1.2 billion deal to build part of the Tehran subway, a $1.3 billion oil pipeline contract, and a no-bid $2.09 billion commission to develop parts of the vast South Pars natural gas field.

Brig. Gen. Abdolreza Abed, the Ghorb chief who is also IRGC deputy commander, said in a rare June 2006 interview in a state-owned Iranian newspaper that the total worth of the company's 1,200 projects prior to the big new deals was about $3.5 billion. U.S. officials say such profits matter because it is IRGC's foreign military arm, known as the Quds Force, that is suspected of providing funds, training and equipment to anti-U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

The Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, an exile group that staunchly opposes the Tehran regime, yesterday produced its own inventory of IRGC commercial enterprises. The council is the political arm of a group officially designated a terrorist organization by the State Department, but its past exposes of Iran's secret nuclear and other military operations have proved credible. Among the IRGC's properties: firms and investments in construction, finance, movie production, poultry farming, honeybee farms, import licensing and real estate. "On several occasions, the IRGC has taken over huge pieces of land in posh areas of major cities, Tehran in particular, and [has used force] to suppress the other government agencies that had claims to these lands," the council said.

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