Moahammad Saleh Jokar, Iaslamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) Deputy for Parliamentary Affairs claims he is unaware of orders from the Supreme Leader to give up the military's business interests.
Two weeks after a widespread uprising against economic hardship and lack of freedoms shook the Islamic Republic, the Supreme Leader reportedly ordered the Iranian armed forces to reduce their involvement in the country’s economy.
Speaking to Etemad Online, a website affiliated with the reformist daily E’temad, Jokar said January 25, “I have not seen any such order from the Supreme Leader, but allegations that the IRGC and artesh [Iran’s regular army] are involved in economic activities is questionable.”
Jokar’s disavowal of involvement by Iran’s military elites in business activities is the first time an Iranian official has openly denied that the armed forces engage in such activity.
Iran’s Defense Minister, however, has confirmed the Supreme Leader’s order for the armed forces to wind down business activities.
“Based on Ayatollah Khamenei’s edict, the general staff of the armed forces of the Islamic Republic have been told to begin the process of giving up those business interests not related to their mission,” Defense Minister General Amir Hatami told the government-owned daily Iran January 20.
Hatami noted, however, that some business activities controlled by the armed forces, including the IRGC-affiliated Khatam ol-Anbia industrial conglomerate, will continue their activities in the construction sector according to the needs of the government.
From now on, Hatami said, economic activities of the armed forces will be limited to participation in national construction projects.
Neither the IRGC nor the Supreme Leader’s office have yet officially reacted to Hatami’s remarks.
IRGC’s economic activities are “non-profitable” and limited to the construction of the country’s infrastructure, including building roads and dams, according to Jokar, with the exception of the Khatam ol-Anbia industrial conglomerate, which belongs to the regime and the whole nation, meaning the people of Iran are the final beneficiaries.
“Khatam ol-Anbia industrial conglomerate participates in governmental bids, but never receives any profit for it,” Jokar said, adding, “The IRGC has still 300 trillion rials (A little over $6.6 billion) in unpaid fees for governmental projects. Nevertheless, the IRGC still plans to complete these projects.”
Jokar, who was a hardline lawmaker in Iran’s previous conservative dominated parliament, last year proposed the formation of an “Iraqi Revolutionary Guard Corps” that would mirror its Iranian counterpart.
Jokar’s recent comments contradict remarks made by other politicians, including Deputy Parliament Speaker Ali Motahari and his former fellow legislator Ahmad Tavakkoli, who have repeatedly described the IRGC’s dominant role in Iran’s economic sector as “detrimental” to the Islamic Republic’s interests.
One month after his reelection in May 2017, President Hassan Rouhani bitterly criticized the IRGC, saying, “part of the economy was in the control of a government without guns, and we gave it to a government with guns—this is not economics and privatization.”
Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration had transferred ownership of government assets and projects to the IRGC under a privatization scheme.
Rouhani’s comments triggered a war of words with IRGC commanders that lasted more than two months until July 24, when IRGC commanders met President Rouhani in a surprise visit.
The generals in the meeting were IRGC Chief-Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari, Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, IRGC Aerospace Commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh, Basij Commander Gholam-Hossein Gheybparvar, and Deputy Chief of Sarallah unit Esmael Kosari.
Since this meeting, Rouhani has ceased complaining about the IRGC’s business activities and dominant role in nearly all aspects of life in Iran.