How Iran’s mafia-like Revolutionary Guard rules the country’s black market
How Iran’s mafia-like Revolutionary Guard rules the country’s black market – The revolutionary children of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Pasdaran, were …
The revolutionary children of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the Pasdaran, were the poor, marginalized thugs of the Shah’s era, people with a huge appetite for violence. They founded the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the IRGC, and became the main tool of oppression in the hands of Iran’s theocratic regime.
Over the past three decades, the Guard has evolved and built a powerful military-industrial-financial complex. And they have not limited themselves to the normal economy. The IRGC has expanded Iran’s underground economy and its own control over it, building a mafia cartel in the process. Consequently, it is not surprising that in its 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington, the Quds Force, the IRGC’s external operations wing, sought the help of Mexican drug cartels.
A close look at the IRGC’s involvement in Iran’s underground economy shows that the Guards are no strangers to the underworld. They control it.
Globally, the underground economy covers a considerable portion of the world’s economic activities. As the IMF explains, deficient rule of law in a country is correlated with a larger underground economy.
Iran has notably weak rule of law — and its underground economy is thriving. The IRGC is the major player in this shadow economy. For the IRGC, the underground is an unobservable source of wealth that is nevertheless important to understanding the Guard’s abilities and behavior.
The underground economy, as the IRS defines it, “represents income earned under the table and off the books.” It can include legal income laundered to avoid taxation, and also the trade in explicitly illegal goods, like drugs or weapons.
The value of the underground economy is not known and the estimation process is much more difficult than for other economic metrics, like GDP. The IMF’s study suggests that the value of an underground economy for developing countries is an amount equivalent to between 35 and 44 percent of their stated GDP. There are different measurements of the size of Iran’s underground economy, with some estimations of illicit activity reaching a total that’s equivalent to 36 percent of Iran’s GDP.
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