Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, October 27, 2017

Military influence in Iran

The Revolutionary Guard Corps was created to replace the regular Iranian military which was suspected of being anti-revolutionary. Since then, it has grown in power and influence. At least until recently. This might deserve a penciled-in asterisk and footnote in your textbook.

Iran Saps Strength of Revolutionary Guards With Arrests and Cutbacks
From its nine-story headquarters in an upscale neighborhood of Tehran, a giant construction company directs its operations across Iran, building mosques, airports, oil and gas installations, hospitals, and skyscrapers.

Armed guards stand watch at the doors, and small posters on its exterior walls honor Iranians who have died in the current wars in Syria and Iraq.
Revolutionary Guards display for Defense Week
But this is not just any company. Khatam-al Anbiya, whose name means “seal of the prophet,” is the most important economic arm of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. It employs nearly 1.5 million people, including subcontractors, and is led by a military commander.

Yet the company’s outward signs of strength belie the powerful currents of change that are eroding its business. A crackdown is being led by Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, who ran for office promising to unleash economic growth by completing a nuclear deal and freeing the country from international sanctions.

Having achieved that — though some sanctions remain — he has turned his sights on the Revolutionary Guards, whose monopoly on large sectors of the economy and penchant for corrupt dealing he sees as a major drag on the growth he promised…

In his assault on a bastion of privilege and power long thought to be impregnable, Mr. Rouhani seems to have the all-important support of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader… who has blasted officials for allowing corruption to grow in all layers of Iran’s political system, including the government, called recently for the government to reach out to foreign countries for investments and new businesses.

“What I sought is that in the economy, we must have free competition,” Mr. Rouhani told a group of news media executives during his visit to the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September…

For years, the construction giant and numerous other companies and conglomerates run by the Revolutionary Guards have operated with impunity, well beyond the reach of civilian authorities, driving Iran’s sanctions-crippled economy, financing its military adventures in the region and — not coincidentally — enriching the hard-line commanders and clerics at their helms.

But now, with many sanctions lifted after the nuclear deal, and as the government tries to open the country to competition and foreign investment, the group’s economic dominance is increasingly seen as a liability…

In July, lawmakers told local news outlets that the government had decided to cut Khatam-al Anbiya’s annual budget. “They cannot take over every project anymore,” a lawmaker, Gholamreza Tajgardoon, told the newspaper Shargh. “Not the ones that private contractors can also do.”…

In most of the world, the Revolutionary Guards Corps is known for its military wing, which has been leading Iranian efforts to support its ally, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria… and Islamic State militants. It has sent thousands of Iranian soldiers to advise and to fight, helping to tip the balance in both wars. Domestically, the Revolutionary Guards oversee Iran’s aggressive missile program…

In line with its increasingly prominent military role, the Revolutionary Guards’ budget for military and missile activities has increased recently…

It would be wrong to assume the Revolutionary Guards will be forced entirely from the Iranian economy anytime soon, said Bahman Esghi, the secretary general of the Tehran Chamber of Commerce. Constitutionally, it is required to use its assets in peacetime to help with economic development, and practically speaking, since the private sector accounts for only 20 percent of the economy, the country needs its heft…

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