by Greg Russell
The National, 10 M1rch 2017 - WHAT’S THE STORY?
IRAN’S Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been accused of meddling in the affairs of 14 Muslim countries in the Middle East over the past 30 years and of being “directly” involved in the “hidden” occupation of four – Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon.
The claim comes in a joint study by the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) and the International Committee In Search of Justice (ISJ), two Brussels-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It said that meddling in the affairs of other regional countries was institutionalized and the IRGC top brass has been directly involved.
Another report, from the country’s opposition in exile, says the IRGC – under the supervision of the regime’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei – has taken over the country’s key economic centers, becoming a financial empire and gaining financial independence.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran ( NCRI ) said this financial clout was used “to fund its terrorist activities and export terrorism and fundamentalism to other countries in the region and beyond”.
Its earnings are on top of its budget allocated by the Iran government. “The IRGC is, therefore, a comprehensive economic set-up that virtually controls the bulk of Iran’s exports and imports,” said the NCRI. “Exclusive use and control of a major portion of the docks in Iran is a key element of its set-up.”
SO THE GUARDS ARE AN ENTERPRISE?
IT would appear so – worth around $12 billion (£9.8bn) a year. Intelligence from sources inside the People’s Mujahidin Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MEK), from within the regime, and from within the IRGC itself, suggests that almost 90 ports – 45 percent of 212 official harbors – are under exclusive IRGC control.
The IRGC was ordered to set up the ports – known as “Bahman Docks' – by the clerical regime’s founder, Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1982 with no government or customs supervision.
To get around international sanctions, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei authorized the expansion of the ports’ activities and increased economic engagement by the IRGC.
Now, based on his orders, no authority can oversee IRGC activities in border areas, and the corps can import anything without paying customs fees.
According to the NCRI, the guards use these ports for illegal activities – including smuggling oil, petrol, gas, chemical products, cigarettes, narcotics, alcohol, mobile phones, and pharmaceuticals. PMOI sources say illegal arms exporting to proxy forces is also carried out from the ports through several front companies – one of the main destinations being Yemen.
They said that after Yemeni ports were closed to Iranian ships, the IRGC’s companies began using facilities in Oman to smuggle weapons to Yemen. They identified the three mains ones as Soltan Qaboos in Muscat, Sohar in north Oman and Salalah in south Oman.