The Week in Review: April.12th – April.19th

By Natasha Phillips

APRIL. 19 – The U.S. State Department’s designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization took effect this week. The Iranian government responded with a reciprocal designation for the U.S. global military force CENTCOM. The U.S. designation has divided analysts, though there appears to be consensus around the view that the effects of the new sanctions are yet to play out. The move is part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Maximum Pressure Campaign against Iran which in part aims to cut off the IRGC’s income streams. Experts speaking to media outlet Axios on Thursday highlighted issues that the president needed to factor in to his campaign, including realities in the oil market. 

As the IRGC faced rising international scrutiny this week, an elite Iran-based hacking group published documents on Twitter which allegedly showed corruption and company interests within the IRGC. Tapandegan, which means heartbeat or pulse in Persian, shared documents providing details about the purchase of a hotel in Mashad which was bought with 120 billion tomans claimed to have been taken from public funds and a list of private companies which the group say is owned by the IRGC. 

  • The IRGC’s financial interests have turned the military force into Iran’s most powerful economic actor, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. Experts estimate that the Corps actively engages in a plethora of sectors including banking, oil and gas projects and illicit trading in the form of drug trafficking and unapproved loans to regional allies. Estimates around the IRGC’s share of Iran’s GDP range from 20 percent to 36 percent. Alex Vantanka, a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington D.C. spoke to Kayhan Life about the IRGC’s economic activity and how the new designation might affect their business.
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  • A banker speaking to Kayhan Life on condition of anonymity said the U.S. designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization would harm Iran’s economy.  The banking executive also told Kayhan Life that IRGC officials have been holding private meetings with bankers to see if a scheme could be put into place to circumvent U.S. sanctions. He also said that the Corps was sending suitcases filled with money to Hezbollah in Lebanon in a bid to bypass sanctions. Sounding a warning the banker said, “The government has no other option but to reform the banking system.” 
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  • The dire economic situation inside Iran is putting young people off from getting married, choosing instead to have extra-marital relationships which have led to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, according to Mehdi Moslemifar, a psychologist, sex therapist and marriage counselor. Mr. Moslemifar told Kayhan Life that the root of the problem lay with women in Iran, “Some men are reluctant to commit to a long-term relationship, given that many girls change partners frequently and quickly nowadays.”  Link to source 
  • Flash floods have caused $60 million worth of damage to hundreds of ancient historic sites, according to the deputy director for tourism at the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handcraft and Tourism Organization. It is estimated that nearly $72 million would be needed to repair 730 historic sites in 25 provinces damaged by the floods. Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire, managed to remain relatively unscathed as its network of ancient 1,200-meter-long canals diverted most of the floodwaters.
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