Iran: Government Cracks Down On Republican Guards Financial Scams

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE FINANCIAL TIMES)

 

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Iran Add to my FT Iran cracks down on Revolutionary Guards business network Elite force has had to restructure some companies and transfer others to the state Read next fast FT Bahrain prices $3bn, three-tranche bond deal; demand tops $15bn Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards naval unit march at a parade in Tehran in 2011 © Reuters Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) 3 Save to my FT YESTERDAY by Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps is being forced to shrink its sprawling business empire and some of its senior members have been arrested as part of President Hassan Rouhani’s attempts to curb the elite force’s role in the economy. In the past year, the guards, who have interests in sectors ranging from oil and gas to telecoms and construction, have had to restructure some holding companies and transfer ownership of others back to the state, a regime insider and a government official told the Financial Times. At least a dozen guards members and affiliated businessmen have been detained in recent months, while others are being forced to pay back wealth accrued through suspect business deals, the officials said. One manager of a large holding company affiliated to the guards was arrested a few months ago and cash worth millions of dollars was confiscated from his house, said a businessman who has worked with the guards. A brigadier general — described as the corps’ economic brain — was also arrested this year, but released on bail, the regime insider said. The crackdown, which is being conducted discreetly to avoid undermining the guards — one of the most powerful arms of Islamic republic’s regime — began last year. It started after Mr Rouhani, a pragmatist who has criticised the guards’ role in the economy, told Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, about the vast wealth individuals affiliated to the 120,000-strong force had accumulated, the officials said. “Mr Rouhani has told the supreme leader that the economy has reached a deadlock because of high levels of corruption and the guards’ massive control over the economy,” said one regime insider, who is a relative of the supreme leader. “Other than economic concerns, Mr Khamenei feels the need to save the guards [from corruption] and has naturally thrown his support behind the move.” Khatam-ul-Anbia, the guards’ economic arm, declined to comment. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani (r) receives the official seal of approval from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Islamic republic’s supreme leader, in August after he had won a second term © AP Iranian analysts say corruption involving politically connected individuals and entities is hampering economic development and efforts to boost growth as the country grapples with high unemployment. Two months after he secured a second term in May elections, Mr Rouhani said the guards had created “a government with a gun,” which “scared” the private sector. The president has been seeking to open up the Islamic republic and attract foreign investment since he signed a nuclear accord with world powers in 2015. But he has faced resistance from hardliners within the regime, including the guards, who critics say want to protect their interests. Under the nuclear accord, many sanctions were lifted and Iran agreed to scale back its nuclear activity. The empire There are few public details available about the Revolutionary Guards’ business interests. But some companies are known to be affiliated to the force. These include Sadra Iran Maritime Industrial Company, which builds oil tankers and is involved in oil and gas projects, and Shahid Rajaee Professional Group, one of Iran’s biggest construction companies. One of the guards’ consortiums, Etemad Mobin Development Company, bought Telecom Company of Iran, a state company, for $7.8bn in 2009. Other companies linked to the guards include Ansar Bank and Sepanir Oil and Gas Engineering. The forces’ interests stretch across many other sectors, such as health, agriculture and petrochemicals But the US has retained financial sanctions related to Tehran’s alleged support for terrorism. The Trump administration has also imposed new sanctions on companies and individuals affiliated to the guards. The measures have put off international investors who fear they could inadvertently end up doing business with entities linked to the guards’ opaque empire. There is little public information about the force’s business interests. Khatam-ul-Anbia’s website makes references to the areas it works in, including mining, petrochemicals, health and agriculture, but does not name companies. Some economists and businessmen estimate that the corps’ network of companies could be valued at around $100bn. The guards involvement in the economy is traced back to the end of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s when commanders were rewarded with contracts to build roads, dams and bridges to help reconstruct the country. The force’s business interests rapidly spread during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, a populist hardliner, as the corps was awarded state projects in strategic sectors, including oil and gas. A consortium affiliated to the guards paid $7.8bn for the Telecom Company of Iran, a state entity, in 2009. It has since become a cash cow to fund the corps and its allies, political observers say. Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s rule from 2005 to 2013 was tarnished by widespread allegations of corruption. International sanctions against the Islamic republic were also tightened during his presidency, but that presented those linked to the regime’s centres of power with the opportunity to use their networks to get involved in murky sanctions-busting deals, including selling crude, analysts say. The government official said the guards have so far been complying with Mr Rouhani’s efforts to scale back their economic interests. “Whether he will succeed or not, Rouhani is standing firm and determined to bring the guards under the general umbrella of the economy and give them projects only under certain competitive conditions,” the official said. “The country’s economy is in such a critical state that there is no choice but for the guards to go back to its main military task. The level of unaccountability and power is eating up the whole economy.” Mr Rouhani last month increased the official budget for the corps’ ballistic missile programme and overseas military campaigns in a bid to placate the guards and counter their argument that they need businesses to fund their operations, including in Syria and Iraq. “Rouhani wants the guards to be a strong military body and a powerful antiterrorism force in the Middle East but not to import cosmetics,” said the businessman. The restructuring of the corps’ businesses is being overseen by Major General Mohammad Bagheri, the joint chief of staff of the armed forces, who is responsible for the guards and the conventional military, the regime insider said. That is intended to show that the process is carried out by a bipartisan institution. But the regime insider said the overhaul can only work as long as it has the backing of the 78-year-old Ayatollah, Iran’s ultimate decision maker. “If the guards’ business interests are not rolled back today, they will take full control of the country after the leader’s death,” he said. Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don’t copy articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web. Share on Twitter (opens new window) Share on Facebook (opens new window) Share on LinkedIn (opens new window) 3 Save to my FT Latest in Middle East & North Africa fast FT Bahrain prices $3bn, three-tranche bond deal; demand tops $15bn fast FT Tunisia parliament passes controversial economic reconciliation law Qatar counters embargo with $38bn injection Saudi Arabia detains two prominent clerics Saudi Arabia to launch global PR offensive

Don’t You Know I’m A God—My One Fingered Salute To Saddam

Don’t You Know I’m A God

 

In Baghdad town where everyone was my clown

Me on their strings a pulling

Twas with myself in love I fell

Tis to my name Saddam they are a bowing

I’ve been God here for twenty odd years

Though two Bush’s tried to scare me

Nine palaces are where I call my home

They can kiss my behind for trying

 

When I look to the east, and I look to the west

I can see no eagle a coming

My Republican Guard is the best there could be

The God of Iraq they are a guarding

Georgie o Georgie come take your best swing

Then on your face you’ll be a falling

Georgie you know that all my people love me

You come here in the sand and dust you’ll be dying

 

What’s this, those birds that we could not see

With all those bombs a falling

Don’t you know that I am the God of Iraq

Now into a wormhole I am a crawling

It was here that I hid for a couple of months

My beard growing gray and balding

Georgie o Georgie it’s your name I am cursing

From a God to a man on trial I’ve fallen

I wonder, does a man feel the snap of his neck

When from the gallows he finds himself swinging

When Iran’s ‘Supreme Mass Murderer’ Dies Will The People Of Iran Insist On Freedom?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

It’s time to prepare for Iran’s political collapse

 July 5

Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In recent congressional testimony, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sensibly stressed that the United States should “work towards support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government.” The commentariat was aghast, and the Islamic republic registered a formal protest note. Both parties seemed surprised that the United States has long assisted those seeking democratic change. During the Cold War, secretaries of state routinely assured those trapped behind the Iron Curtain that America supported their aspirations. Given that Iran is ruled by an aging Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the United States should be prepared for a transition of power there that may yet precipitate the collapse of the entire system.

In a region littered with failed states, Iran is often mischaracterized as an island of stability. The history of the Islamic republic, however, is a turbulent one, featuring a constant struggle between an authoritarian regime and restive population seeking democratic empowerment. When they first assumed power, the clerical oligarchs waged bloody street battles to repress other members of the revolutionary coalition who did not share their desire for a theocratic dictatorship. In the 1990’s, they faced the rise of a reform movement that remains the most exhilarating attempt to harmonize religion and pluralism. The reformists spoke about reconsidering Khamenei’s absolutist pretensions and expanding civil society and critical media. The regime reacted with its usual mixture of terror and intimidation to eviscerate the movement. And then came the Green Revolt in summer 2009 that forever delegitimized the system and severed the bonds between state and society.

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The one thing certain about Iran’s future is that another protest movement will rise at some point seeking to displace the regime.

Today, the Islamic republic lumbers on as the Soviet Union did during its last years. It professes an ideology that convinces no one. It commands security services that proved unreliable in the 2009 rebellion, causing the regime to deploy the Basij militias because many commanders of the Revolutionary Guards refused to shoot the protesters.

The seminaries in the shrine city of Qom appreciate the damage that the government of God has done to Islam as the mosques remain empty even during important religious commemorations. Young men don’t wish to join the clergy, and women don’t want to marry clerics. The system is engulfed by corruption, which is particularly problematic for a regime that bases its power on divine ordinance. And Iran just underwent a presidential election where the winner, Hassan Rouhani, promised freedoms he has no intention of delivering and further delegitimized the government by airing its dirty laundry on issues of craft and repression. Today, the Islamic republic will not be able to manage a succession to the post of the supreme leader as its factions are too divided and its public too disaffected.

The regime does, however, have one thing in its favor: its nuclear agreement with the international community (officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.) Historically, arms-control treaties have generated their own constituency. During the 1970s, at the height of U.S.-Soviet arms-control diplomacy, influential voices in the West did not want to pressure the Kremlin for fear that it would disrupt the agreements. The Islamic republic can count on similar forbearance from critical sectors of Washington. Many will feign concern about Iran’s terrorism or human rights abuses, but will rebuff attempts to impose truly crippling sanctions on Tehran. The legitimacy and longevity of the regime will not be questioned by those whose foremost priority is sustaining a deficient arms-control accord. And it was this sentiment that Tillerson challenged when he called for making common cause with those struggling for freedom inside Iran. The amorality of arms control has little room for such lofty and idealistic ambitions.

The task of a judicious U.S. government today is to plan for the probable outbreak of another protest movement or the sudden passing of Khamenei that could destabilize the system to the point of collapse. How can we further sow discord in Iran’s vicious factional politics? How can the United States weaken the regime’s already unsteady security services? This will require not just draining the Islamic republic’s coffers but also finding ways to empower its domestic critics. The planning for all this must start today; once the crisis breaks out, it will be too late for America to be a player.

In March 1953, when Joseph Stalin died, President Dwight Eisenhower asked to see his government’s studies about how to exploit the Soviet succession crisis. There were none. An exasperated Eisenhower exclaimed, “For about seven years, ever since 1946, I know that everybody who should have been concerned with such things has been sounding off on what we should do when Stalin dies…. Well he did — and we want to see what bright ideas were in the files of this government, what plans were laid. What we found was that the result of seven years of yapping is exactly zero. We have no plan.” For his part, Tillerson has established the guidepost that should direct U.S. foreign policy. The task for the administration now is to study ways that we can take advantage of Iran’s looming crisis to potentially displace one of America’s most entrenched adversaries.

Saudi Arabia Captures Iranian Boat With 3 Republican Guard Soldiers With Explosives: Iran Says They Were Fishing Boats

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE GUARDIAN NEWS PAPER)

Iran and Saudi Arabia offer clashing accounts of offshore confrontation

Iran says Saudi navy opened fire on fishing boats as Saudi navy says it captured boat and detained three members of Revolutionary Guards

Saudi army officers walk past F-15 fighter jets at King Salman airbase in Riyadh.
Members of the Saudi armed forces walk past F-15 fighter jets at King Salman airbase. The country’s navy intercepted three boats last week. Photograph: Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images

The Saudi navy said it had captured three members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards from a boat seized last week as the vessel approached Saudi Arabia’s offshore Marjan oilfield, Riyadh has said.

Iran’s interior ministry denied the Saudi claim, however, saying that the Saudi navy had opened fire on two Iranian fishing boats.

Relations between the two countries are at their worst in years, as they support opposite sides in conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, and each accuses the other of destabilising regional security.

In a statement on Monday, the Saudi information ministry said: “This was one of three vessels which were intercepted by Saudi forces. It was captured with the three men on board, the other two escaped.

“The three captured members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are now being questioned by Saudi authorities,” the statement said, citing a Saudi official.

The vessel, which was seized last Friday, was carrying explosives and the those captured intended to conduct a “terrorist act” in Saudi territorial waters, the statement claimed.

An earlier report from the Saudi Press Agency said the Saudi navy had fired warning shots at the two boats that managed to escape.

But Majid Babaei, the director of Iran’s border agency, told the semi-official Youth Journalist’s Club (YJC) news agency that the Saudi claim was untrue.

“The issue is about two fishing boats and Saudis have fired at the boats, which resulted in the death of one fisherman. The people targeted were fishermen and the boats they were sailing on were fishing boats,” he said.

Iran’s Tasnim news agency said on Saturday that Saudi border guards had opened fire on an Iranian fishing boat in the Gulf on Friday, killing a fisherman. It said the boat was one of two Iranian boats fishing in the Gulf that had been pushed off course by waves.

Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have steadily deteriorated. On 5 June, Riyadh and other Arab governments severed ties with Qatar, citing its support of Iran as a reason.

Days later suicide bombings and shootings in Tehran killed at least 17 people. Shia Muslim Iran repeated accusations that Saudi Arabia funds Sunni Islamist militants, including Islamic State. Riyadh has denied involvement in the attacks.

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Don’t You Know I’m A God: (My One Fingered Salute To Saddam)

My Salute To Saddam

 

In Baghdad town where everyone was my clown

Me on their strings a pulling

Twas with myself in love I fell

Tizz to my name Saddam they are a bowing.

 

I’ve been God here for twenty odd years

Though two Bush’s tried to scare me

Nine palaces are where I call my home

They can kiss my behind for trying.

 

When I look to the east, and I look to the west

I can see no eagle a coming

My Republican Guard is the best there could be

The God of Iraq they are a guarding.

 

Georgie o Georgie come take your best swing

Then on your face you’ll be a falling

Georgie you know that all my people love me

You come here, face down in the dust you’ll be dying.

 

What’s this, those birds that we could not see

With all those bombs a falling

Don’t you know that I am the God of Iraq

But, now into a wormhole I’m crawling.

 

It was here that I hid for a couple of months

My beard growing gray and balding

Georgie o Georgie it’s your name I despise

From a God to a man on trial I’ve fallen

With Quran in hand in a few seconds a swinging

I wonder, does a man really hear his own neck breaking?

 

 

 

EXCLUSIVE: Shadowy Iranian Republican Guard General visits Moscow, violating Sanctions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS AND ‘OUTBRAIN’)

IRAN

EXCLUSIVE: Shadowy Iranian general visits Moscow, violating sanctions

A shadowy Iranian general responsible for the deaths of nearly 500 Americans traveled to Moscow Wednesday to meet with high-ranking Russian officials — a trip that violated multiple United Nations resolutions forbidding him from leaving his country, multiple western intelligence officials with direct knowledge of the visit told Fox News.

RUSSIAN SPY SHIP SPOTTED CLOSER TO USA, NEAR NAVY SUBMARINE BASE

Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani arrived in Terminal A of Vnukovo airport outside Moscow on Feb. 14 on Mahan Air WD084 at 12:13 p.m. local time and was scheduled to remain in Russia for a few days for meetings, officials said.

Soleimani is visiting Moscow to express his displeasure with the Russian government over their relationship with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, mainly regarding weapons deals and strengthening economic ties, sources told Fox News.

MIDEAST PEACE MAY NOT COME FROM TWO-STATE SOLUTION, WHITE HOUSE SAYS

The CIA would not immediately answer a request for comment. A State Department spokesman said he was unaware of the visit.

This is Soleimani’s third trip to Moscow following visits in April and July last year. Soleimani is thought to be the mastermind behind Iran’s proxy war in Syria in order to prop up the Assad regime. Soleimani met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu days after the Iranian nuclear deal was agreed to in Vienna. Iran has been a key ally along with Russia in Syria, working together to shore up support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against opposition fighters, some of whom are backed by the United States.

The Quds Force, which Soleimani heads, is the special operations wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, responsible for supporting terrorist proxy forces across the Middle East. Soleimani reports directly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Soleimani was first designated a terrorist and sanctioned by the U.S. in 2005 for his role as a supporter of terrorism. In October 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department tied Soleimani to the failed Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States at a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Testifying before Congress last year, former Secretary of State John Kerry said Soleimani and the Quds Force would continue to face sanctions even after some UN sanctions were lifted on Iran following the landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers, including the United States.

UN Resolution 1747 prohibits Soleimani to travel, and any country that lets him transit or travel is also defying sanctions. Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and would be a aware of the restrictions against meeting him.

During his confirmation hearing before Congress in 2015, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said many Americans were killed by Iranian-backed forces under the command of Soleimani.

“The number has been recently quoted as about 500. We weren’t always able to attribute the casualties we had to Iranian activity, although many times we suspected it was Iranian activity even though we didn’t necessarily have the forensics to support that,” Dunford told lawmakers.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry said five days after Soleimani’s Moscow visit that he would never receive sanctions relief.

“Under the United States’s initiative, Qassem Soleimani will never be relieved of any sanctions,” Kerry said.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

Don’t You Know I’m A God: (My One Fingered Salute To Saddam)

My Salute To Saddam

 

In Baghdad town where everyone was my clown

Me on their strings a pulling

Twas with myself in love I fell

Tizz to my name Saddam they are a bowing.

 

I’ve been God here for twenty odd years

Though two Bush’s tried to scare me

Nine palaces are where I call my home

They can kiss my behind for trying.

 

When I look to the east, and I look to the west

I can see no eagle a coming

My Republican Guard is the best there could be

The God of Iraq they are a guarding.

 

Georgie o Georgie come take your best swing

Then on your face you’ll be a falling

Georgie you know that all my people love me

You come here, face down in the dust you’ll be dying.

 

What’s this, those birds that we could not see

With all those bombs a falling

Don’t you know that I am the God of Iraq

But, now into a wormhole I’m crawling.

 

It was here that I hid for a couple of months

My beard growing gray and balding

Georgie o Georgie it’s your name I despise

From a God to a man on trial I’ve fallen

With Qur’an in hand in a few seconds a swinging

I wonder, does a man really hear his own neck breaking?

 

 

 

Poem: Don’t You Know I’m A God (My One Fingered Salute To Saddam)

My Salute To Saddam

 

In Baghdad town where everyone was my clown

Me on their strings a pulling

Twas with myself in love I fell

Tizz to my name Saddam they are a bowing.

 

I’ve been God here for twenty odd years

Though two Bush’s tried to scare me

Nine palaces are where I call my home

They can kiss my behind for trying.

 

When I look to the east, and I look to the west

I can see no eagle a coming

My Republican Guard is the best there could be

The God of Iraq they are a guarding.

 

Georgie o Georgie come take your best swing

Then on your face you’ll be a falling

Georgie you know that all my people love me

You come here, face down in the dust you’ll be dying.

 

What’s this, those birds that we could not see

With all those bombs a falling

Don’t you know that I am the God of Iraq

But, now into a wormhole I’m crawling.

 

It was here that I hid for a couple of months

My beard growing gray and balding

Georgie o Georgie it’s your name I despise

From a God to a man on trial I’ve fallen

With Qur’an in hand in a few seconds a swinging

I wonder, does a man really hear his own neck breaking?

 

 

 

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