Thursday, August 23, 2007
(CNSNews.com) - The largest branch of Iran's military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, is violating United Nations sanctions against nuclear weapons proliferation, according to a policy expert on Iran, who also said the group should be deemed a terrorist organization.
"The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has been knowingly and actively violating Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747, said Alireza Jafarzadeh, author of "The Iran Threat" and former spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran - until it was shut down by the U.S. government for being a front for the Mujahedin-e Kalq (MEK), a group on the State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
At a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Jafarzadeh said the Iranian government is evading sanctions to further its missile program.
"Using front companies is the main tactic of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to dodge international sanctions," he said.
"One of the main military organs of the Iranian regime is the Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO). This organization, which was founded and is operated by the IRGC, has 12,000 workers and constructs advanced missile systems. It also manufactures bombs, missile launching platforms and gyroscopes," said Jafarzadeh.
"Several subordinate entities of the AIO are sanctioned by the United Nations resolution 1737," he added. "Nevertheless, the AIO... has been importing material in violation of the U.N. resolutions."
Jafarzadeh also said the IRGC has become far more than a military organization, calling it a "mafia headed by the Supreme Leader."
"In short, with the full backing of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the country's economy and politics are now under the command of veteran IRGC commanders and senior officials of security and intelligence apparatus," he said, noting that key members of the government are veterans of the IRGC and that the group has taken control of oil and natural gas production, mining, construction, agriculture and business.
"Washington is considering slapping a terrorist label on the IRGC," said Jafarzadeh. "The designation would effectively impede the clerical regime's rogue behavior at home and abroad" by limiting the financial resources of the group and their ability to obtain materials.
Andrew Grotto, senior national security analyst with the liberal Center for American Progress, noted in a recent policy paper that the IRGC is "Iran's FBI, CIA, and Special Forces all rolled into one corrupt and criminal organization."
But, Grotto added, "As odious as the Revolutionary Guard Corps is, designating it a Foreign Terrorist Organization would vastly complicate the effort to achieve a negotiated end to Iran's enrichment program by effectively binding negotiations over Iran's nuclear program to Iran's support for terrorism.
"The designation would no doubt raise to some extent the cost of Tehran's support for terrorist organizations and uranium enrichment, although not enough to force the government to reconsider this support," he said.
"But the Revolutionary Guard also has enormous political and financial clout within the Iranian government," said Grotto. "As a result, Iran's leaders would almost certainly insist that the United States repeal any designation of the Revolutionary Guard as a Foreign Terrorist Organization before cutting a deal over its enrichment program.
"For political and technical reasons, however, no U.S. president could do so unless Iran visibly renounced terrorism, which it is unlikely to do in the foreseeable future," he added. "For now, the main focus of U.S. policy should be to roll back Iran's nuclear program."
Michael Rubin, a senior research fellow with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, told Cybercast News Service that though the IRGC "engages in terrorist activities and provides infrastructure for terrorists, I fear that such a designation might exculpate the rest of the regime when, in reality, the IRGC's activities cannot be separated from the state leadership of Supreme Leader Khamenei or President Ahmadinejad."
Rubin added that the designation would "enable greater sanctions and pressure on IRGC front companies but, at the same time, it might enable the IRGC to rally Iranians around the flag.
"After all, the IRGC did play a role lauded by many Iranians in defending the country during the Iran-Iraq War," he said.
Yet Jafarzadeh said: "Such a move would be welcomed by the Iranian people who are the primary victims of the IRGC's reign of terror in Iran."
The current structure is very unpopular in Iran, said Jafarzadeh, and the largest resistance group, the MEK, is leading the charge for regime change within the country.
Rubin called the group a "cult" and said the MEK has had "a history of deliberately targeting civilians for political gain."
Currently, he said, "they are near-universally hated by regime loyalists and dissidents alike. In all my time in Iran, I could find numerous people who supported every political color but not a single person who had any sympathy for the [MEK.]"
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