The Wall Street Journal – Iran’s lawmakers Wednesday approved a sanctioned senior official from the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as oil minister, as hardliners scored a major victory in tightening control over the country’s most strategically important sector.
Brig. Gen. Rostam Ghasemi, who had been proposed by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was approved by 216 votes from a total of 264, according to Iran’s Parliament website.
Gen. Ghasemi, who heads Khatam al-Anbiya, the most powerful economic wing of the Revolutionary Guards, will be the first commander from the elite paramilitary force to move into a ministerial post not related to defense.
The appointment is a strategic gain for the Guards, which is responsible for safeguarding Iran’s Islamic revolution and defending its borders, and who are now likely to increase their reach in the economy.
Gen. Ghasemi’s arrival at the ministry is also likely to complicate internal relations within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, over which the Islamic Republic presides under a rotating system. A key OPEC meeting split acrimoniously in June after Iran successfully thwarted a Saudi push to hike oil output.
Gen. Ghasemi is subject to sanctions by the U.S. and European for his role in helping Iran’s nuclear program.
After Mr. Ahmadinejad took office in 2005, the Revolutionary Guards won multiple contracts in the oil and gas sector, signaling the group’s rising political and economic influence. That influence has grown as sanctions force international companies to pull out of Iran.
The parliament also approved three other ministers nominated by Ahmadinejad for sport and youth; industry, mines and trade; and cooperatives, labor and social security.