Hosein Radmard, Head of Iranian Guilds Council, informed of the Basij plan to launch 300 chain department stores across the country. This piece of news is the latest in regard to the vast economic activities of the militia Basij and its main organ, the IRGC.
In recent years, the volume of economic activities of military organs, especially the IRGC, the Basij and the Police Force, has increased and this has resulted in the increase of criticism by economists and independent figures.
Economic activities by military organs have increased do much that sometimes they become serious competitions with each organ struggling to gain more shares than other military organs in the country’s economy and market. Sometimes these struggles result in death; as in the case of Majid Soleimanipoor, the winner of Iranian Telecommunication Company auction, who died last November and his death was announced suspicious. He was the CEO of the company that was to buy the TCI shares and online resources accused his rivals, namely the IRGC and the Basij, of his death.
About four months ago, the president of the Central Bank told the reporters that Mehr Financial and Credit Institution, an affiliate to the Basij Force, were to convert to a bank. This announcement was made a few days after, in a controversial move, Mehr Institution shares were transferred to the IRGC. The IRGC expended $8bn to gain the TCI shares; an amount that may be unaffordable by the government. In the time of the contract, many questioned the whereabouts of this enormous amount.
From Invisible Waterfronts to Visible Airports
Beside the open and evident ways, the IRGC and its affiliate, the Basij add up to their wealth and power in other ways as well and now have become one of the greatest economic mafia in the world. When Medi Karubi was the speaker of the 6th parliament, he talked about invisible waterfronts that worked under the IRGC’s supervision. Until then, only a few newspapers alluded to these 60 secret waterfronts and Karubi was the first to publicly announce their existence. Ali Ghanbari, Member of the 6th parliament, said that one third of the country’s imports took place at these waterfronts.
It is said that through these waterfronts including Shahid Rajaee port, the IRGC exports inexpensive state gasoline and gains 300% benefit. Also, some of the independent members of the 6th parliament acknowledged that the volume of the IRGC smiggling activities was over $12bn and believed that 68% of the country’s imports took place at the illegal waterfronts.
These events took place when the reform government was ruling the country and before Mahmud Ahmadinejad took the office. During Ahmadinejad presidency, massive contracts, in various fields of oil and gasoline, TCI, railways, etc, were signed with the IRGC and the Bsij.
Some of the Tehran’s clothing market activists attribute the 80% of the illegal imports of cloth and garments to the IRGC and believe no one but the IRGC and the Basij can pass 80% of the illegal imports of cloth and garments through Shahid Rajaee port. Such illegal imports from China have resulted in the bankruptcy of many of the country’s industries and those engaged in them.
Some of the MPs of the border cities implicitly name the IRGC as the importer of cigarettes, alcohol drinks, satellite receivers, and so on.
Payam airport near Karaj officially belongs to the IRGC and contributes to the invisible waterfronts in the south. In the fall and winter 0f 88, Shargh newspaper reported about 2000 tones of goods that were imported via this airport. These goods varied from Viagra pills to computer accessories. In March 2003, Ali Yunesi, Minister of Intelligence in Mohammad Khatami’s cabinet, declared that the goods clearance through this airport took place without the presence of Customs officials.
Besides, some media report about 25 entrance and exit gates in Mer Abad Airport that the Iranian Customs has no control over and the IRGC imports and exports illegally via them.
Beside the IRGC and the Basij, other organs have pre-empted the Iranian market. The impolitic imports of sugar and tea have resulted in the bankruptcy and unemployment of many including those active in these areas as well as farmers.
Ahmadinejad: Presence of the Basijis Is Reassuring
In October 2008, in the inauguration ceremony of the executive operation of the water transfer project from Dez River branches to Ghomrood, Mahmud Ahmadinejad said: “in order to develop the country, we need Jihadist and faithful spirit. The presence of the Basijis is reassuring to every one and suggests that we can take great measures in the country. Some individuals, however, express wrong and unaware opinions when they say that the presence of Basij in the country’s projects makes it difficult for other sectors to be active in those fields. This opinion is wrong and due to unawareness”.
It seems that now, in addition to massive industrial and construction projects, the IRGC and the Basij are planning to enter the microeconomics so that they can eliminate smaller and more fragile organs and totally pre-empt the Iranian economy, reassuring the Leader of the Islamic Republic an the president more than before. In fact, as some observers of the Leader and his affiliate organs like the IRGC, Oppressed Foundation, Astan Ghods and Martyr Foundation believe that by financially supporting those who are loyal to the Leader, these organs are trying to establish a special class in the society so that they will always have content and reliable supporters in the society.
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