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Accusation About Khamenei's Wealth Angers Pro-Iran Shiite Clerics In Iraq

Iraqi Shi'ite Muslims from Hashid Shaabi hold portraits of Iran's late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (C), Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (L) and Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani during a parade, as they get ready to trample upon the U.S. flag. June 2016

Accusation about Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's wealth has stirred controversy in political circles in Iraq as Shiite factions close to Iran have reacted to a Facebook post about financial corruption in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Facebook page of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad wrote in an April 25 post, "Corruption is rife in all parts of the Iranian regime, starting at the top," adding that "The possessions of the current supreme leader Ali Khamenei alone are estimated at $200 billion, while many people languish in poverty because of the dire economic situation in Iran after 40 years of rule by the mullahs."

Reactions to the post include one by Shiite cleric Ammar Hakim, the leader of Al-Eslah Coalition, who wrote on his Twitter page without any reference to the disclosure about Khamenei's wealth: "We reject any insult by anyone or any government against religious leaders and sources of emulation," and warned against "provoking the people."

Hakim had previously condemned the designation of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps by the United States as a foreign terrorist group.

Meanwhile, during a meeting with the visiting chairman of Iranian Parliament's Foreign Relations and National Security Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi, Hakim said last week, "Using Iraq as a platform for the political, economic and media war against Iran is in violation of Iraq's sovereignty and against bilateral diplomatic relations."

In another development, the Iraqi news agency reported that "Fath coalition" has called on the Iraqi government to summon Joey Hood, the Charge d'affaires of the U.S. Embassy to the Foreign Ministry.

The charge d'affaires is the highest ranking U.S. diplomat in Iraq while Baghdad is waiting for a new U.S. ambassador to be appointed by Washington.

Previously, a comment by Mr. Hood about the diplomatic implications of continued gas import from Iran had created negative reactions at the Iraqi Parliament, where lawmakers demanded the summoning of Mr. Hood to the Foreign Ministry.

Iraq will be exempted from U.S. sanctions on purchasing natural gas from Iran until late June.

Some Iraqi groups such as the Hashd al-Sha'bi militia maintain close ties with Tehran. A recent deployment of Iraqi militia to Iran's flood-hit areas caused uproar among some Iranian MPs and other Iranians on social Media.

The revelation on the U.S. Embassy's Facebook page is not unprecedented. In October 2013 Reuters released a special report which said one of the offices operating under the aegis of Khamenei's household has $95 billion in assets.

However, Reuters had added that there is no document to prove that Khamenei was using these assets for his personal benefits.

The brief Facebook message, however, does not include any evidence. Nevertheless, the figure is nearly seven times the amount the Islamic Republic claims the Shah of Iran had accumulated during his 27 years reign. This comes while the estimate by Reuters is based on figures released by Iran's Stock Exchange and the websites of companies affiliated with Khamenei's office as well as some information released by U.S. Treasury.

Reuters wrote that only one person controls' Khamenei's financial empire, and that is Khamenei himself. Reuters wrote at the time that the gigantic assets lend Khamenei financial independence.

It goes without saying that controlling billions of dollars of the country’s wealth also provides political leverage to Khamenei by enabling him to buy loyalty among religious leaders and possibly the military. There is little transparency in the Iranian state or the economic system and the media has been totally subdued.

In December 2018, the U.S. Department of State wrote in a report marking the international day of campaign against corruption that the Islamic Republic is full of corrupt hypocrites including Ayatollah Khamenei who has a tax-free fund at his disposal with an assets that surpass billions of dollars.

The comment was challenged only by - then – Judiciary Chief Sadeq Amoli Larijani who called it "unethical."