by Amir Taheri
When all others had abandoned her, they stood by her. Using at times the bare minimum, they fought back an enemy that was funded and supplied by the West and our friendly Arab neighbors. After a devastating 8 year war they worked on rebuilding the country, with roads, schools, and factories. They project Iranian power by allegedly operating foreign bases in Lebanon, Iraq, and as far away as Latin America. With missiles pointed at those threatening Iran, they have kept a war from happening. When the US and Europe forced out companies that were building oil and gas fields in Iran and the industry looked bleak and down under, they came in and restarted or launched projects to further Iran's vast energy industry. Instead of drawing funds from the state for the military they use their economic businesses to generate profits that go towards expanding Iran's military might. They gather Iran's best minds with high paying salaries and jobs ensuring that they stay in Iran versus immigrating abroad. They have been targeted with sanction after sanction by the US and Europe, and have become Iran's boogymen. It is enough for a Guard member to step onto a plane for that airline to be sanctioned! (This recently happened with Iran Air, with the reasoning that supplies for them were carried in their cargo hold)
They certainly were not the main force suppressing protests after the election. That prize goes to the Basiji, not the Revolutionary Guard. We have heard countless times from critics, the White House, and dissidents that the Revolutionary Guard are planning/have already committed a coup and seek to usurp power for themselves with Ahmadinejad as their leader. We find this now to be not true as they have recently on countless occasions come out against President Ahmadinejad and his struggle with the Supreme Leader. So that can't be it. They are not the intelligence ministry keeping an eye on dissents. They are not the judiciary and placing people in prison. Europe and America accuse Iran of having a high capital punishment rate with a large number of drug traffickers, murderers, and rapist being hanged yearly. The Revolutionary Guard do not implement the hangings. They don't even enforce the morality rules in Iran, that is done by a branch of the police force. Through their elite al Qud's force in Iraq they, in the spiced words of President Bush, have kept the "terrorist" busy in Iraq that Iran doesn't have to deal with them at home. For those that might have missed that comment, I was referring to the American troops in Iraq being distracted. Ok, so that's a reason why the Americans would hate them.
The Revolutionary Guard are accused of gaining projects that were suddenly left by some European companies. If they were the only domestic company with vast enough experience in implementing large energy projects, what should Iran do, wait a couple of years until a new private domestic company comes along to take over the project all the while losing potential revenue? They mostly contract out some work and specialize in other areas and are known for their efficient management of projects. I have read and heard that the Revolutionary Guard go for Iran's best minds after graduating from the top schools in Iran. They certainly have the need for them with their companies doing vast projects across Iran. They offer these new employees wages much higher than the average company. In the past and even today many of Iran's best minds continue to leave this country to go work and live in the West. They are not dominating Iran's construction sector as some have said. In reality the vast majority of projects in Iran are either done by private firms like Kayson or semi-public firms that are too countless to name. A special focus is placed on projects that they work on and statements are made like, "look, here is a project that they are doing, thats evidence of dominating the economy." I could do a piece (as so many have done on the Revolutionary Guard and their "dominance" of Iran's economy). I could pick out a few dam projects, road and energy projects across Iran and then also add some thing like, "They are even working on line 7 of Tehran's metro." Pointing out a few big projects can be an attention grabber for sure. What I would fail to mention is that they did not build the 4 existing Tehran metro lines, or the 2 lines in Mashhad, or the 2 in Shiraz, with one due to open soon. They also are not building the one in Esfehan or Tabriz, or even Ahwaz for that matter.
There is the possibility of the new oil minister to be approved being the current CEO of Khatam al-Anbia, the industrial arm of the Guards. Rostam Ghasemi was quoted recently as saying "We have strong and skillful people working for Khatam al-Anbia who are capable of taking up oil-related projects". There is no secret that he would like more projects going to his firm. He has been quoted as saying that he will facilitate further projects going to Khatam Al-Anbia in the event that he becomes the new minister.
Through their border posts, they are accused of allowing smuggling of goods to illegally come across the border without paying the customary high import tariffs. There has never been solid evidence to support this but just stated everywhere as an open fact. But lets say for arguments sake that they are indeed doing this. Is it an organization wide affair or a few bad apples? If its an organization wide affair at all border posts, then it is an accepted arrangement by the government with the Revolutionary Guard and not illegal just because its not been made public knowledge. And if its a few bad apples allowing some smuggled goods, should the whole organization be held responsible? Smuggling of goods is relatively simple in Iran and with or without the Guards help, it is done at almost every port. Small boats carry goods over from Dubai and Oman. From the borders of Iraq and Afghanistan other goods come over. Surprisingly, the Guards have never been accused of facilitating the large drug flow from Afghanistan. I wouldn't be surprised if soon they will also be accused of this as well.
I know why the West loves to hate the Revolutionary Guard, they are an efficient organization earning their own money, and building Iran's asymmetric military against future attack, while projecting Iran's flag across the globe. They have defended a country under attack, then helped in reconstructing that country, and now prevent outside powers from attacking her again. So I repeat my question, I know why they hate them, but why are WE as Iranians told to hate them?
Editor’s Note: Amir Taheri is one of the authors of Uskowi on Iran. His weekly columns appear here on Fridays.