Iran: The High Cost of the IRGC's Economic Might

December 4, 2013 Topic: EconomicsPolitical Economy Region: Iran

Iran: The High Cost of the IRGC's Economic Might

How the Revolutionary Guards got into the economy—and what they're taking out of it.

It appears that President Rouhani also wants to force the IRGC to retreat from politics and the economy. He wants to give them some large but specific projects, and not allow them to be involved with all aspects of the economy.

In June 2013 Khamenei told the high command of the IRGC that protecting the revolution does not mean protecting the economic and political domains, hence expressing his displeasure with the IRGC’s involvement in both politics and the economy. He told them explicitly that they should not get involved with politics.

The IRGC and the nuclear accord with the P5+1

Given the economic and military power of the IRGC, it cannot be neutral with regards to the nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1—the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany—that was signed on Sunday November 24. Most of the IRGC senior officers support the accord. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, also said that Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) has approved the accord. The secretary-general of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council’s (SNSC’s), Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani; General Firoozabadi; and the IRGC chief, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, have all supported the accord. As the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Khamenei has also supported the accord. The IRGC senior officers have been presenting the Geneva Accord as a “great victory” that was achieved as a result resisting the United States. They, and Khamenei, claim that Iran’s right to enriching uranium was recognized by the accord, whereas the language of the Geneva accord is subject to different interpretations.

If the Western powers deliver their part of the bargain and eventually lift all nuclear-related sanctions in return for Iran living up to its commitments, the IRGC will continue to support the agreements. It appears that both Khamenei and the IRGC high command have decided to support nuclear agreements with the P5+1, provided that Iran’s rights within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will be respected.

A way out

It is clear that the IRGC’s activities, and the organization’s resulting political power, are not healthy for Iran’s future. Thus, there is a strong desire within Iran’s political factions to force the IRGC out of the economic arena and, by extension, politics. However, wishing to expel the IRGC from the economic arena is one thing; being able to actually do so is a completely different matter—but it can be achieved based on national consensus and the following ideas:

First, all the economic corporations of the military should be transformed to publicly traded companies.

Second, no executive of such corporations should be a military man.

Third, the shares of such companies should be traded freely in the stock market.

Fourth, all the revenues should be deposited in the national treasury.

Fifth, the government should guarantee that it will significantly increase the military budget over a period of time—say, ten years—so that the military will do its main task: defending the nation.

Sixth, since a significant portion of the assets of the military has been obtained through illegitimate means, in accordance with Article 49 of Iran’s Constitution, they should be returned to their true owners, or to the national treasury.

Akbar Ganji is an Iranian investigative journalist and dissident. He was imprisoned in Tehran from 2000 to 2006, and his writings are currently banned in Iran.