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Iran's Guards Aim To Expand Economic Role, Aiming To Build Ten New Refineries

Commander of Khatam-al Anbia Construction Headquarters Saeed Mohammad. FILE PHOTO
Commander of Khatam-al Anbia Construction Headquarters Saeed Mohammad. FILE PHOTO

The commander of Revolutionary Guard’s business conglomerate in Iran has proposed building ten more refineries, which would signal a major expansion of the military's role in the country’s most important economic sector.

Saeed Mohammad, the commander of Khatam al-Anbia told Fars news agency close to the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) that “The joint headquarters of the armed forces has proposed [construction of] ten refineries to the oil ministry”. He did not say where exactly the refineries should be built but indicated it can be joint decision with the ministry.

The IRGC has established a dominant business and economic empire in Iran in the past fifteen years, triggering a lot of criticism both inside the country and abroad. Most of its business activities remain opaque, with no transparent accountability. The private sector is said to have been the biggest loser, as the military uses its sway to corner lucrative sectors of the economy and government contracts.

In January 2018, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei facing criticism ordered the IRGC to reduce its business activities and not to get involved in “unrelated” economic activities. Although he did not explain what constitutes unrelated ventures, there has been no visible sign of the military curtailing its controversial economic role.

President Hassan Rouhani also in 2017 strongly urged the IRGC to stop interfering in politics and the economy but after a few weeks of tensions the two sides met to mend fences.

Recently, with widespread anti-government protests and the “maximum pressure” exerted by the United States, IRGC’s support for the survival of the regime has become more vital for Mr. Khamenei.

Mr. Mohammad on Saturday also defended IRGC’s role in the economy, saying that it is being mainly criticized “from the other side of the pond”, probably meaning the United States adding that their “infantry” inside Iran simply echoes those views. The IRGC and hardliners ascribe most criticism by politicians or ordinary people to foreign influences, while many regime insiders have also assailed the military’s involvement in the economy.

Regarding transparency, Mohammad said that IRGC’s business activities are audited but reports are kept secret because “They might impose various sanctions on us”.