Article Source: Rahbord News
Article Date: 07 August 2011
At a Sunday farewell ceremony Brigadier-General Rostam Ghasemi stepped down as commander of the Khatam-al Anbia Headquarters, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) main economic arm, to take charge of the oil ministry in President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Cabinet. He was replaced by Abolghasem Mozaffari Shams.
General Mohammad-Ali Jafari, commander of the IRGC, praised Ghasemi for his great work as commander of Khatam al-Anbia, including the completion of major projects in which his leadership role was crucial. While expressing sadness at seeing Ghasemi leave, Jafari characterized the oil ministry as “a key pillar for governing the country” and stated his hope that Ghasemi would continue his great work there, bringing momentous progress to the country.
Ghasemi acknowledged Jafari’s comments in his farewell speech by saying that: “While I have become a public servant in the oil ministry, my entire existence is in the Guards and I shall remain this way.” Ghasemi also gave a glimpse of how he viewed Khatam al-Anbia’s role in the oil sector after his departure by asserting that it: “…must give small- and medium-sized projects to the private sector and attain a higher status to the extent that it replaces foreign companies [in Iran].”
Khatam al-Anbia during Ghasemi’s tenure has greatly increased its role in the economy, receiving billions of dollars in government contracts particularly in the strategic oil and natural gas sector. Its growth has run parallel to the growing importance of the IRGC as an economic power in Iran, which now encompasses not only oil and gas but also other major infrastructure projects.
While low- and mid-ranking ex-Guardsmen have played an increasingly visible role in Iranian politics over the last decade, the appointment of a high-ranking IRGC commander to such a strategic ministry outside of the defense is unprecedented, representing a qualitative change in the nature of its role in both the state and economy. Underlining this change, Jafari stated that:
“While the IRGC was created to achieve the goals of the Islamic Revolution, its purpose is not solely to confront foreign enemies or domestic insecurity.”
Speaking regarding sanctions, which have caused great economic problems for Iran but also facilitated the IRGC’s entry into the economy, Jafari alluded to how natural resources could be used to neutralize their effect:
“We thank God that we have good [natural] resources in the country which must supplement the budget in order to build up the country’s infrastructure…We hope that the circumstances will be created for the [Khatam al-Anbia] Headquarters to participate in projects where the need exists. The IRGC carries out projects which, for security reasons or lack of resources or technology, cannot be done by the private sector…the IRGC must be the vanguard in the country’s economic affairs.”
He concluded by noting:
“The expectation exists that with Ghasemi’s transfer to the oil ministry this problem [economic problems] will be solved as currently the country’s economy is dependent on what happens in the oil ministry.”
Editor’s note: As previously noted,  Ghasemi’s appointment as oil minister may be a watershed moment for the IRGC as they will increasingly have unfettered access to Iran’s vast oil and natural gas resources.
Jafari’s speech at Ghasemi’s farewell ceremony however is an open admission of the dominant role which the IRGC now plays in the Iranian economy.