Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem said on February 17 that “Iran has changed the face of the region and supported it with strength and stability (...) and Iran has also supported Hezbollah in Lebanon”. He added: “Hezbollah is proud about its relations with Iran, as they have been very good in terms of resistance, dignity and victory.” He then stressed that “Iran is ambitious about saving people and countries!”
The destiny of the countries is known, especially Arab countries that Iran wanted to help and save, namely Iraq, Syria and Yemen. As for Lebanon, every time the Lebanese people try to recover and the economy blossoms, a blister-like speech from Hezbollah’s Secretary-General emerges to burry all hopes and aspirations; Lebanon pays the price of these threats while Hezbollah gets paid for its achievements from Iran!
Iran is so relaxed and wants to impose its strength and tenacity, It executed 87 people last month, i.e. one person every nine hours, including two teenagers, and six of the executions were public.
This Iran, angered by Arab countries not tempted by ‘victories’ achieved through Hezbollah, Hamas and Houthis, has a blind trust in its regime. According to research by the Iranian Human Rights Foundation, Iran doubles the number of executions during the months preceding presidential elections, then reduces or stops two weeks before. This is similar to the rash of Hezbollah in Lebanon every time there are talks about the election law or whenever Hezbollah feels the Lebanese are ready to receive tourists and Arab investors. The Iranian human rights organization is concerned about the wave of executions that is on the rise. What encourages the Iranian authorities is the absence of reactions from the international community. In the most recent US State Department report on human rights, Iran ranked second in the world in terms of executions, after China. But if we compare the number of executions with the number of citizens, Iran would rank first (executions may be one of the most prominent victories addressed by both Nasrallah - Qassem).
Throughout the past eight years, former US President Barack Obama tried to find moderate leaders in Iran. However he will always be accused of being the leader of the free and democratic world who dealt with an oppressive regime that ignored the principle of human rights, systematically killed innocent people in Iran, launched terrorist acts outside Iran and destabilized the region. Although Obama deliberately and intentionally disregarded the issue of terrorism and human rights, the annual report of the US State Department on terrorism in the world highlighted Iran’s continued support for armed militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen. Iran is also working on intensifying its influence in Asia, Africa and South America.
Influence over business
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard are planning and executing terrorist acts outside overseas and are violating human rights within Iran. The IRGC are like an industrial empire that has an overwhelming political influence. It has steadily grown since the establishment of the Islamic Republic regime in Iran. The Revolutionary Guard is known for controlling the main economic sector. Since the beginning, they have held control of the most lucrative industries in Iran, including the main revenue sources of the country i.e. oil and gas. The Revolutionary Guard has control and influence over the ruling forces. It is a group inside Iran that does not follow anyone, because it sees itself as the sole defender of the regime’s ideology and the only authority that can protect the Islamic Revolution. The Guards perform internal and external strategies through two elite units: They deal with business and money through Khatam al-Anbiaa, and terrorism and operations to destabilize the Arab world through the Quds Force.
The main responsibility of the Khatam al-Anbiaa unit is to generate revenue. It owns and operates almost all the major entities in Iran, including banks, transportation and media outlets, telecommunication and industrials sectors, mining, railways and airports, and most importantly, it runs the Iranian National Oil Company and all its sub branches, as well as the pipelines and refineries, production facilities and excavation equipment. With the billions of dollars that is under its disposal, it is active in the smuggling of prohibited goods, transferring funds to terrorist groups and participating directly in the achievement of military deals.
In 2011, when the international sanctions on Iran escalated, international oil companies were forced to leave the country. The Khatam al-Anibaa managed the projects of these companies and the government granted it unfinished contracts without any tender or competition.
If the Trump administration did not manage to take up again the sanctions on Iran, it would mean that it wants to participate in the infrastructure, construction, and oil and gas projects. Foreign investors will find themselves dealing with fake subsidiaries for Khatam al-Anibiaa.
The terrorism arm
We will now tackle the terrorism arm, which is the Quds forces, “managing” terrorism in the world. The IRGC does not deny that the Quds forces supervise Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza, in addition to other groups in Africa and South America. Due to Khatam al-Anbiaa richness, Iran is said to have changed the face of the region. Hezbollah brags about its relations with Iran as Sheikh Naim Qassem said. The thanking rash reached its peak, and Lebanon was threatened because it is the “card” that the Iranian leadership does not want to lose.
The International sanctions imposed on Iran to limit its nuclear activities, have cost the country hundreds of billions. Iran had no other choice but to accept the negotiations due to the additional sanctions imposed on Iran’s oil industry in 2012, which engendered the deterioration of the production and export of oil. The Iranian economy is heading towards bankruptcy and inflation reached 40 percent, and the cost of living increased with an unemployment rate of 33 percent. Iran has agreed on the requests of Western countries to limit its nuclear activities.
A return to sanctions
This is why it is important to talk about the re-activation of the sanctions now, because the world expected aspects of moderation when Hassan Rowhani won the presidential elections in 2013, but their expectations remained unfulfilled. Ever since they lifted the sanctions in January 2016, Iran’s activities did not stop destabilizing the region. It kept tormenting the Arabs’ relations, and mainly those with Lebanon, through Hezbollah. Moreover, Iran did not stop supporting international terrorism and testing its inter-continental missiles. It kept systemically violating human rights. On the other hand, the lifting of the sanctions allowed the withdrawal of the front companies’ names that were managed by the Revolutionary Guard from the list of sanctioned companies imposed by the international community. The EU was the first to do so.
The European and Asian companies looking to participate in lucrative projects in Iran, should know they will deal and negotiate with front companies owned by Khatam al-Anbiaa unit that will, in turn, ask to have a share of the profits and joint projects, generating more bribes under the existing Iranian regime. They will impose on these European and Asian companies to have Iranian partners belonging to the IRGC in their boards. The imposed Iranian partners will lack the knowledge of modern technology and the ability to execute most of the projects. As Sheikh Qassem said, “they are there to pave the way for the victories era, the revitalization of the Palestinian cause, and support Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
As for reformist President Rowhani, he is sure the human rights situation in Iran has drastically deteriorated. The political prisoners, who have already been detained for years, are being executed with boys and girls who are still under the legal age. The number of detained persons from minority groups is growing and the pressure exerted on newspapers is increasing amid the imprisonment of bloggers.
Sheikh Naim Qassem said: “God willing, we will all enjoy again the stolen goods and the future of our generations, thanks to the great revolution”. This is also applied on the Khatam al-Anibiaa and the Quds Forces, which are considered as Hezbollah’s lifeline. The Iranian people, who are not concerned with the Palestinian cause, have endured a lot, and the society started to ask for the regime’s change, especially if the sanctions were re-implemented. From here, talks about victories will rise again to cover the increased number of executions that are happening publically in Iran every day.
This feature first appeared in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 23, 2017