By Boris Kalnoky and Clemens Wergin
The Conversion of the Teheran Government into a Military Regime and the raising Influence of the Revolutionary Guards in Politics and Economy
How the armed forces take over state enterprises for discount prices
The Iran is currently facing a transition from a state formerly ruled by religious leaders towards a military dictatorship. In the same degrees as the Islamic clerics lose their stake, the revolutionary guards further penetrate onto all areas of politics and economy. That’s what emerges from information that our newspaper received through western security officials and which were confirmed by released cables of the US-diplomats.
The capital of Aserbaidshan, Iran’s northern neighbour, serves as an outpost for western intelligence institutions to get information from inside Iran. Leaked cables of the US-embassy in Baku provide a good key to understand the conflicts between the different internal players in Teheran. The key question at the moment is who will follow Ali Chamenei as the religious leader of Iran, considering that his bad health conditions will sooner or later force him to resign. Potential consequences of Chamenei”s resignation was also the issue of a meeting between US embassy official with the aserbaidshanian foreign secretary Elmar Mammadyarov held already in November 2009. According to Mammadyarov, the future political direction of Teheran will depend on the position taken by the security forces of Iran, and they currently back Ahmadenishad.
Chameneis poor health status might have also been one of the reasons for Ahmadenishad and his security troops to massively manipulate the 2009 general elections that rescued their power. This appears the most likely of three possible explanations condensed from insider information collected by the US embassy.
The heavy protests of the Iranian youth in Teheran against the blatantly manipulated election results came for Ali Chamenei out-of-the-blue. His response therefore came only after weeks of hesitation. According to the aserbaidshanian president Alijev it was the view from a helicopter over the streets of Teheran, crowded with angry protesters that made Chamenei opt for political stability and against any attempts of a dialogue with the masses. He knew as well as informed foreign observers that in reality it was the opposition leader Mussavi whom the majority of voters gave their preference. And the election compliance was huge, about 90%, but the final results were completely made up. Seeing the ever increasing number of people on the streets of Teheran – estimated a million were expressing their anger – Chamenei decided to give Ahmadenishad his unconditioned support.
“This decision was the start into a dead-end road considering the incompetence of the mullahs to organize a national economy” said Alijev according to a cable that was also send to the CIA. In another secret letter dating from December 2009 the increasing economic crisis is described as a result of the suppression of the summer protests. The regime started to replace political opponents from leading positions in industry, trade and agriculture in an attempt to clean-off the higher levels of the economy from experienced, but political “unreliable” management. Substituting them with Ahmadenishad supporters quickly lead to a drop of economic performance by about 20%. According to the US-embassy the entire economy of Iran is now mainly controlled by the security forces. This change in management is officially declared as the result of a transition from a state-controlled towards a private economy, a so-called “revolution within the revolution” and accordingly this changed the internal balance of power dramatically.
Several sources of information all show that it were the revolutionary guards and the Bassidsch in close alliance with Ahmadenishad who profited most from this reallocation of economic power and political influence between the different players. Back in 2008 about 80% of the economic resources were state-owned industry and agriculture.
The US embassy cites the Teheran chamber of commerce qualifying the privatisation process a farce which had the only purpose to hide the fight between the various political, religious and armed forces for economic influence. This started in late 2008 when the revolutionary guards and the Bassidsch were given more and more preference in this transition process, whereas the religious groups of the mighty ayatollahs and state-owned pension funds saw their influence dropping.
The privatisation of the telecommunication company for instance was only open for potential buyers that were backed by the revolutionary guards. In similar selection process applicants for bank licenses were rejected unless they had a link to the guards. At the moment similar plans exist to hand over the Isfahan steel company, the entire railway system, mining companies and the car-manufacturer Iran Khodro to the guards. To ease such a gradual change of ownership the established management is more and more pushed aside or out of their positions at all.
Attempts of the revolutionary guards to gain economic power go already back to the 90s, but became more fiercely since Ahmadenishad took over his office. Experts believe that meanwhile the guards already control 30% of the entire economy, with a stronghold in the building and energy sector. Large contracts awarded by the government, given to them without inviting potential competitors are a gold mine for the companies owned by the guards. One of those, the civil engineering company Khatam al-Anbiaa, has won 750 government contracts since 2005. Very frequently other bidders that are not backed by the guards feel so badly disadvantaged that they don not even attempt to made an offer. And in the process of privatisation closed negotiations are often done to give the assets to the revolutionary guards for a bargain.
Together with their activities to establish themselves in the Iranian economy the guards are also trying to secure and broaden their political power. Recently first steps were undertaken to reorganize the security services. Accused of not adequately suppressing the protests in 2009, the ministry for intelligence and security is gradually deprived off his power and replaced by institutions directly controlled by the guards. The Bassidsch, notorious for their open brutality on the streets will also be directly subordinated to the guards. Some of the departments of the security ministry shall be relocated and integrated into the hierarchy of the guards to strengthen their activities related to domestic surveillance. A special department has been organized for this task with an emphasis on surveillance of the opposition forces and suppression of protests.
To fulfil these tasks and to compensate for failing activities of the Al-Quds-brigades in Africa and for new activities in south-American countries such as Venezuela the guards need more finances. According to western intelligence sources Chamenei and Ahmadenishad therefore negotiated to shorten budgets of civil projects. Initially, Ali Chamenei was opposing this idea, arguing that attempts to further tighten the civil economy in a period of economic difficulties will raise the unease of the people and might cause a new wave of unrest. But according to this newspaper, Chamenei finally declined to Ahmadenishads plan. This plan includes another 4.5 bill. $ to be drained off state budget – mainly from the public energy sector – and allocated to funds of the guards. Other sectors that will suffer from these transfers are transportation authorities, including postponed renovation projects for the highway system, water-supply and sewage installations, gas-pipelines and dropped efforts to reduced the urban air pollution. At the end of this plan, however requests are made to identify less vulnerable areas for potential financial cuts.
One potential area of conflict resides in the aserian minority that represents about 30% of the entire population in Iran. According to an US-cable from Baku, released by Wikileaks, Teheran sees a rising discontent among the Aseris with a growing risk of a rebellion. A document forwarded by Baku officials to US diplomats and the CIA is even more detailed: it is a translation of a 2007 message from the guards to Chamenei describing their plan to destabilize Aserbaidshan, which is considered an US allies and has strong ethnic relations to the aserian minority in Iran. Classified as “top secret” and “for immediate action” under the letter head of the guards a detailed evaluation is given, arguing that “ in face of a rising influence of pan-Turkish secessional movements within the IRI, including areas mainly populated by the aserian minority, it is essential for you to organize action against this danger in the north-west of our country.” This movement should be “declared as anti-Islamic and as organized by foreign enemies in order to facilitate our proven instrument of appealing to the religious feelings of people to which they are strongly bound (…) It is therefore necessary that you build a network of collaborators within Aserbaidshan who would be willing to assault Iranian religious leaders and even the prophet Mohammed, aiming of fuelling hostile feelings in Iran against the aserian minority.”
This letter is signed by a general Mohammed Yusuf Shakeri. In a cable attached to this letter it says that without more detailed about its origin it is not possible to judge the authenticity of this letter.
(Source “Welt am Sonntag”, 23-01-2011)