Article date: 04 August 2011
Brigadier-General Rostam Qasemi, ex-commander of the Khatam al-Anbia Headquarters which is the economic arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has been confirmed as oil minister in President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad’s Cabinet by the Majlis (Iran’s legislature).
From the 245 representatives Qasemi received 216 yes votes, 22 no votes and 7 abstentions, easily gliding into the oil minister’s office. Prior to the confirmation vote Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani joking addressed Qasemi as “Mr. Minister” and encouraged representatives to symbolically show the futility of western sanctions against Qasemi by voting “yes” to confirm him, underlining the high degree of support this appointment enjoys from the Principalist faction as a whole.
One notable exception to the general mood of approval was Representative Ali Mothhari, who stated that he refused to have a “Guardsman” as oil minister.  In response Larijani, in a rare and symbolically significant gesture, stepped down from the Speaker’s elevated platform to the floor of the Majlis to personally defend Qasemi.
Ahmadinejad’s other ministerial candidates were also confirmed with comfortable margins. Abdul-Reza Sheikholeslam, candidate for Minister of Labour, Cooperatives and Social Welfare, was confirmed with 204 yes votes, 31 no votes and 10 abstentions. Mohammad Abbasi, candidate for Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs was confirmed with 165 yes votes, 60 no votes and 19 abstentions. Finally, Mehdi Qazanfari, Candidate for Minister of Industry, Mining and Trade, was confirmed with 218 yes votes, 20 no votes and 7 abstentions.
Editor’s Note: Qasemi’s appointment as oil minister marks a new high-point in the IRGC’s expansion into the Iranian economy. While the appointment of ex-IRGC members to senior ministerial positions has become a practice in the Ahmadinejad Cabinet, Qasemi’s appointment is noteworthy because the commander of the IRGC’s economic arm has moved directly to occupy Iran’s most economically important government ministry. While the Ahmadinejad administration has done much to advance the economic interests of the IRGC in the past, Qasemi’s tenure is likely to vastly expedite this process.