Najmeh Bozorgmehr of Financial Times has an excellent analysis of the Revolutionary Guards’ economic power and reach in Iran. According to her analysis, Rouhani “is seeking to counter the commercial reach of the Revolutionary Guards.” Through its front-companies and vast network of connections, “associates of the Guards have profited from $120bn of so-called privatisations to acquire core national assets, notably in the communications sector. This has only strengthened the financial muscle that the Guards had accumulated from their traditional cash cow: taking a hefty cut from imports of consumer goods, believed to range from glass to Maseratis.”
Sanctions have clearly hurt the Iranian economy, effectively blocking the Islamic regime’s ability to conduct trade with the world. But what is also clear is that sanctions have contributed to corruption and funneling of billions of dollars to entities like the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The IRGC is “allegedly involved in smuggling oil, arms, electronics, and consumer goods, possibly amounting to $12 billion a year.” According to a report by the Global Financial Integrity, between 2006 and 2008, when the first round of UN and U.S. sanctions were put into place, the amount of money illicitly taken out of the Iran per year nearly tripled, from $4.3 billion to $12.8 billion. Recently, a member of the parliament stated that in the past eight years “more than $600 billions of money has left Iran for overseas account.” The question is not whether there is corruption in IRGC, but how much ?