A senior official of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has said that he has no information about a recent decree reportedly issued by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei calling on the country’s armed forces to transfer their investment holdings and commercial assets to the private sector. “I was unable to find such a declaration and have not seen it,” Brigadier General Mohammad-Saleh Jokar, the deputy head of IRGC in parliamentary and legal affairs told Etemad Online. “I do not know where this report – which you say the defense minister has announced – has come from,” he added. “The issue is that this report says that Sepah [IRGC] and Artesh [regular army] have economic activities, which is questionable!” Jokar, who was previously commander of the Student Basij and held several other key positions, argued that “all of Sepah’s activities are construction work that is carried out through the Khatam al-Anbia Construction Base.” He further claimed that the IRGC’s projects are not profit-generating initiatives.
Comment: On January 20, Iran’s defense minister said that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has ordered the country’s powerful Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) to curtail its growing business empire and divest its commercial assets that are not relevant to its mission.
But since then, Jokar is the second senior IRGC official denying knowledge of Khamenei’s edict on the need for the country’s armed forces to lessen their role in the economic field.
Earlier this week, Brigadier General Esmail Kowsari, the deputy commander of IRGC’s Sarallah Unit, which is responsible for Tehran’s security, also downplayed Hatami’s remarks, arguing that all IRGC economic activities are within the legal framework and “relevant” to their mission. “The construction activity of Sepah [IRGC] is based on Ayatollah Khamenei’s permission,” he stressed. Khamenei’s office has also not commented on the issue.
The debate over IRGC’s economic role is not new. In recent years, President Hassan Rouhani has repeatedly stressed the need that the IRGC should not dominate the Iranian economy. But in practice, the IRGC has only expanded its economic activities inside Iran as well as in neighboring countries.
Founded by the Islamic Republic’s founder Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after the 1979 revolution to safeguard the regime from internal and external threats, the IRGC has not only evolved into Iran’s most powerful military force but also dominates the country’s key economic sectors, such as energy, construction, telecommunication, media, mining, electronics, automobile, banking, and more. Last year, IRGC’s Chief Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari announced that his forces are now also involved in Iran’s agricultural industry. While IRGC leaders argue that their economic activities are aimed at helping the country’s policy of “resistance economy” and helping the poor, the elite force in reality spends most of its revenues on military expenditures at home and abroad.