On March 8, 2017, the National Council of Resistance of Iran’s U.S. Representative Office hosted a panel of leading subject-matter experts to discuss the IRGC’s growing influence and global options to mitigate the threat. The book “Iran: The Rise of the Revolutionary Guard’s Financial Empire” prepared by the NCRI-US was also released, which details how the Iranian economy has been taken over by the Supreme Leader and the IRGC and how those profits are being funneled into terrorist networks.
The moderator of the panel was Adam Ereli, a former U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain, and a spokesman of the U.S. State Department. Other panelists include William A. Nitze adjunct fellow of The Center for Strategic and International Studies, member council on Foreign Relations, Michael Pregent, adjunct fellow of The Hudson Institute, adjunct lecturer of the College of International Security Affairs, and National Defense University; Edward G. Stafford, Foreign Service Officer (ret.), Political-Military Affairs, State Department; and Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of the NCRI’s Washington Office.
According to the report, ownership of property in various spheres of the economy have gradually been shifted from the population writ large towards a minority ruling elite, which is comprised of the Supreme Leader’s office and the IRGC, using 14 powerhouses. “The driving force behind all major economic developments have been the expansion of the sphere of influence of Khamenei’s office and the IRGC over the country’s economic resources, in order to intensify suppression, support terrorism, and advance the nuclear program,” according to the report’s synopsis. Privatization has meant that a significant portion of Iran’s economic institutions lhave been handed off to the Supreme Leader and the security, military and economic groups under his influence.
The panel noted that the study found a small number of IRGC affiliates and Khamenei aides gained easy access to low-interest loans, many of which have never been paid back and result in a financial crisis in its own right.
“Western companies engaged in economic and financial deals with Iran would like to portray their activities as transactions with the ‘private sector’. However, to do business with Iran is to do business with Khamenei and the IRGC,” said the report.
Since the 2015 nuclear deal, marked improvements have not materialized and Iran’s economy has not experienced the renaissance many anticipated. In reality, the back-breaking control of the regime over the entire economic systems and the astonishing growth of extremely disruptive and obstructive rules and regulations severely limit freedom of action, leaving little or no room for genuine free-market competition in Iran. Analysts estimate that two-thirds of Iran’s total industrial capacity has either vanished or remains idle.
But the economic powerhouse of the Supreme Leader and the IRGC is not limited to negatively impacting the Iranian economy. They have also used their financial empire to export terrorism. This includes spending up to $100 million a year in salaries to grab-bag of mercenaries sent to Syria under the direction of the notorious Quds Force.
The study’s purpose is two-fold. First, to document a major corporate and money grab by the Supreme Leader and the IRGC. At the same time, it is a warning to the West. Investments in the post-Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Iranian world are not likely to enliven the Iranian economy, but is more likely to line the pockets of the IRGC and fund terrorism.
“The book is intended to show that, behind the veneer of the official banks and seemingly benign companies, lies a web of institutions controlled by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his ideological terrorist arm, the Revolutionary Guard Corps,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of the Washington Office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran .
According to the book, foreign investors cannot in practical terms avoid entanglement by affiliation in the Iranian regime’s behavior, including its support for terrorism, continued aggressive policies towards regional countries, manufacture and testing of ballistic missiles, and systematic egregious human rights violations inside Iran.”
Iranian Resistance have said that the nuclear deal of 2015 has further emboldened Iran, instead of moderating its leadership. “International sanctions were never the cause of Iran’s economic ills, which is why their lifting has not provided the cure,” according to the book. “There are systemic, entrenched forces at play that have to do with the nature and sociopolitical roots of the political system in power today.”
The panel highlighted how Iran’s current economy is not going to bring an improvement to the overall Iranian population, but continue to fund Iran’s expansion of fundamentalism and terrorism through the region and within the global community.