“Economic Development Headquarters of Iran, Iraq and Syria” provides cover for IRGC regional interference in Syria, Iraq and Yemen
National Council of Resistance of Iran – UK Office
December 6, 2017
Note: information contained in this report has been obtained by the People’s Mojhaedin Organisation of Iran, through its network inside Iran, and it is presented by the UK office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
According to reports from inside the Iranian regime, the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has been instructed to enter an agreement with the Syrian government, upon the order of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In so doing, the IRGC has taken on the guise of the Economic Development Headquarters of Iran, Iraq, and Syria (EDH), thus enabling the continued expansion of the regime’s influence in Syria after the end of the Syrian Civil War.
The IRGC and its foreign arm, the Qods Force, already intervene in Muslim countries and the region using economic, religious, and cultural cover. The EDH is one of the most important sources of this cover. In the first place, it has played the role of supporting the IRGC in the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
In the second place, it provides the ground for the expansion and continuation of the presence of the IRGC in these countries. As a result of the economic activity, the presence of the IRGC in these countries is formalized and the cover for military and terrorist activities in this country after the war is provided. In this report, we will disclose the details of this contract and the background of EDH.
1.General overview of the agreement and the plan:
In return for all the expenditures by the clerical regime in Syria, in January 2017, Imad Khamis, the Syrian Prime Minister, signed an agreement with Eshaq Jahangiri, the First Deputy to the regime’s president. According to the agreement, the Syrian government committed itself to return the Syrian debt to the Iranian regime in 25 years (with the option to extend repayment to 40 years).
The plan entails six major contracts, four of which have been agreed upon and two agreements have been stopped for the time being due to Russian opposition and other problems.
The clerical regime views the advancement of this agreement with Syria as a strategic project.
In November 2017, the regime announced that Jahangiri will be travelling to Syria, where he will finalize the agreement.
1.1.Khamenei personally oversees the advancement of this project:
According to reports received from inside the clerical regime, Ali Khamenei personally oversees all the military, political, and economic activities in Syria including the above mentioned project. Khamenei held a number of meetings with officials of pertinent entities and articulated the framework of the agreement for Syria’s repayment of what it owes to Iran. In the main text of the agreement that was drafted by Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of the Iranian regime’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), the case was referred to as modifying Syria’s debt to Iran.
But smaller agreements with the ministries referred only to “economic cooperation” between Iran and Syria.
1.2.Supreme National Security Council meetings:
The economic agreements with Syria are discussed at the Economic Directorate of the SNCS, headed by Seyed Mohammad Mirmohammadi. In addition to Mirmohammadi, who is the Deputy of the SNCS on economic affairs, meetings were also attended by Saeed Ohadi on behalf of the IRGC Qods Force, Dr. Farhad Zargari and Saeed Abghari on behalf of Iran Foreign Investment Company, and IRGC Brigadier General Ebadollah Abdollahi on behalf of Khatam Al- Anbiya Construction Headquarters (KAA).
A number of other individuals also participated in the specialized meetings. For instance, in one of the meetings of this committee that took place in mid-September, IRGC Brigadier Adl-Hashemi, was present to discuss phosphate mining as a representative of Ghorbe Ghaem, which is affiliated to KAA Headquarters. Sajjadi, the head of Foreign Intelligence Organizations and Movements of the Ministry of Security and Intelligence (MOIS), and Haghighatzadeh, the head of Directorate of Economic and Combating Major Corruptions of the MOIS also took part in the meeting.
1.3.Volume of the agreement:
In the discussions at the SNSC, the principal to be repaid by Syria to Iran was estimated to up to a 20 billion dollar ceiling. This is only for oil sales and lines of credit that the Iranian regime has given to Syria during the tenure of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and more specifically during the civil war.
The oil that the Iranian regime has provided to the Syrian government during this period is estimated to be worth at least 8 billion dollars. The above amount does not include the military assistance and equipment that the Iranian regime has provided to the Syrian military and regime. Including this would make the repayment figure several times higher than the above-mentioned figure.
1.4.Headquarters to Expand Economic Relations of Iran, Syria, Iraq:
The above project is pursued under the supervision of the Headquarters to Expand Economic Relations of Iran, Syria, and Iraq. This entity is officially under the purview of the office of the president and its secretary is in effect an adviser to the vice-president. In reality, however, this entity has been established to meddle in Iraq and Syria and the senior officials of this entity are commanders of the IRGC Qods Force.
Following the downfall of the former government in Iraq, the Iranian regime organized its meddling in Iraq through this headquarters and actually expanded it. Saeed Ohadi, the head of this headquarters has visited Syria twice and has even met Bashar Al-Assad in order to pursue this project. The IRGC has exerted its hegemony on the ministries and other government entities through this headquarters.
Saeid Ohadi and the regime’s ambassador to Syria Javad Torkabadi meeting Prime Minister Imad Khamis – 22/08/2017
1.5.Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters, the IRGC contractor for the project in Syria
Upon Khamenei’s order and the approval of the SNSC, the contractor for this project is KAA (the engineering entity of the IRGC), under the command of IRGC Brigadier Ebadollah Abdollahi. All of the economic activities regarding this project in Syria are conducted under the control of this headquarters.
1.6.The appointment of IRGC brigadier general Hossein Dehghan:
Hossein Dehghan (not the defense minister of the same name) has been tasked by Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters as the director of the project in Syria. Dehghan had previously been in charge of the KAA Construction Headquarters in Lebanon and completed the construction of 280 high-rise apartments in Lebanon.
He has been given total authority to carry out the project in Syria by the Brigadier General Abdullah Abdullahi, the head of the KAA Construction Headquarters.
1.7.Niroogostar Company, the representative of KAA headquarters:
The IRGC KAA headquarters has designated the Niroogostar Company, one of the sub-divisions of the KAA, to lead this project. The head of this company is IRGC Brigadier Amanollah Zare and the technical work is pursued by Saberi, who is an engineer.
1.8.Iran Foreign Investment Company:
Since the above agreement should be approved and followed up by several ministries, the SNSC approved the plan’s project. As such, that Iran Foreign Investment Company, which is a sub-division of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance, was assigned to follow up on the project on behalf of Iran Foreign Investment Company CEO Hasan Abghari.
Hassan Abghari is one the former directors of the Ministry of Intelligence and was the head of Zaeim Electronic Company (formerly known as Motolay), which is under control of the Ministry of Intelligence and makes electronic equipment for it, the IRGC, and other regime bodies. Abghari is reportedly in the final stages of contract talks with the Syrian authorities.
1.9. Setting up a front company called Parnian:
Since the Iran Foreign Investment Company used to be under sanction by the US, and there are sensitivities about it, the regime decided to set up and register a new company called Parnian to handle government investments.
Dr. Abolfazl Roughani, the deputy of the Iran Chamber of Commerce, will be the CEO of this company. A Board of Trustees has been appointed that is comprised of the Minister of Finance, the Foreign Minister, the Minister of Industry and Minister of Mines and Trade, the Head of the Management and Planning Organization.
Parnian will have the task of overseeing and planning this project. The articles of association of this company is in the hands of the ministers and will be considered by them.
2.Continuous participation of the regime’s military in the project under the guise of KAA
2.1. According to this plan, KAA will set up a central headquarters and several branches in various parts of Syria. The exact location of these branches have not been decided yet.
2.2. The Quds Force is responsible for protecting these centers, thus establishing an excuse for its presence in Syria even after the end of the war.
3.Summary of economic agreements between the regime and Syria:
3.1. Contract for 5 thousand hectares of agricultural land:
One of the contracts is for acquisition of 5,000 hectares of agricultural land. This issue was agreed and signed in a memorandum with the Syrian Ministry of Agriculture with the participation of Saeid O’Hadi. Khatam-al Anbiya’s Garrison will carry out the project and the Iranian Ministry of Agriculture Jihad will advise it.
The delivery and finalization of this contract is due to be carried out by Parnian Company.
3.2. Dairy farm contract in Tartus:
Another contract is for the Zahed dairy farm in Tartus. A delegation led by Ehsan Heydar, the Director General of Syria’s Ministry of Agriculture, visited Iran in September 2017, met with Hooman Fathi, the International Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture, and signed the above protocol.
The protocol relates to agricultural machinery and agricultural equipment and forest fire protection systems, as well as the establishment of a livestock feed mill, cold storage rooms, slaughterhouse and dairy farm plant in Tartus.
In addition, the same delegation signed another contract with Ministry of Agriculture Jihad to build a vaccination plant. The specialized aspects of the contract will be under the supervision of the Razi Institute of Iran.
3.3.Phosphate mining contract:
The Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has begun exploitation of the phosphate mine. The column of IRGC trucks escorted by heavy machine gun mounted vehicles carry phosphate to the port of Tartus, then part of it is sold at a price set by the Casablanca market and the rest is sent to Iran to be used there. IRGC has given the responsibility of this mine to Ghaem Company which is one of the largest subsidiaries in Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters, and an IRGC member called Shah Cheraghi is in charge there.
3.4.Oil Terminal Contract:
In the oil terminal contract, the issues raised include the development of oil and gas terminals in Syria and the reconstruction of oil infrastructure in Syria that is used by Iran. The land plot is 1,000 hectares and the duration of the contract is 25 years. These 1,000 hectares are divided into four Syria districts.
3.5Mobile Phone Company Contract:
Khata al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters is in negotiations with the Syrian government for mobile phone contracts, but its license has not yet been resolved. In order to set up mobile systems, KAA must first pay the costs for the setup of the telephone network system. The regime is expecting to get %20 of Syria’s debt from this contract.
3.6.Contract for construction of the berth in Tartus:
Initially, the Ministry of Road and Urban Developments was supposed to be responsible for this contract, to be implemented by the ministry’s Ports and Maritime Organization. But the ministry determined the project to not be economically viable.
KAA has since decided to take over the project for the export and sale of phosphate through the port of Tartus.
4.Background of the “Economic Development Headquarters of Iran, Iraq and Syria”
4.1.The Economic Development Headquarters of Iran and Iraq was founded in 2008 during Ahmadinejad presidency. At the time, due to US forces’ control over Iraq and the success of the Surge strategy, the possibility for IRGC and its Qods Force direct meddling in Iraq had been reduced.
Therefore, the Qods Force set up this center to cover up its meddling under the guise of governmental and official economic activities. Years later, this Headquarters was expanded to Economic Development of Iran, Iraq and Syria. It is currently also active in Yemen.
4.2.The head of the EDH is Iran’s First Vice President and its Secretary is an advisor of the First Vice President. The commanders of Q.F Commander of The EDH allocates all governmental resources at the disposal of the IRGC for its meddling in these countries.
Members of this Headquarter are as follows: Commanders of Qods Force and Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters, the Foreign, Intelligence and Economic ministers. On behalf of each member a representative attends the meetings held by regime’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC).
5.Leadership of Economic Development Headquarters
Top commanders of the IRGC and Qods Froce holding the position of the Secretary, have effectively been running this Headquarters.
5.1.Brigadier Hassan Danaifar
Danaifar was the EDH Secretary for three years starting in the beginning of 2008. He was a Qods Force commander and was later appointed as the ambassador to Iraq.
In 2003, Hassan Danaifar was deputy to Brigadier Mansour Haghighatjo of the Core 5000 of the Qods Force. His mission was in Turkey. After 2003, Haghighatjo was appointed as the head of Holy Shrine Headquarters in Iraq and Danaifar became his deputy there.
At the beginning of widespread meddling of Qods Force in Iraq in 2003, Danifar was in charge of Mobeen Headquarters, the biggest front organisation of the Qods Force for exporting fundamentalism. This headquarters was responsible for meddling in Iraq.
5.2.IRGC Brigadier Amin Shariati
For a short period after Hassan Danaeifar, IRGC Brigadier Amin Shariyati was the secretary of the EDH. After Qomi became the secretary of this headquarters, Shariyati became Qomi’s deputy.
During Iran-Iraq war he was the colander of Ashura division in Azerbaijan.
5.3.IRGC Brigadier Hassan Kazemi Qomi
Qomi was the secretary of this headquarters from April 30, 2011 to November 2013. Kazemi Qomi was the Iranian regime’s ambassador to Iraq after the downfall of the previous Iraqi government. He is one of the top commanders of the IRGC Qods Force.
5.4. IRGC Brigadier Rostam Qassemi
Qassemi was the secretary of the EDH from November 17, 2013 to February 2016. He is one of the notorious commanders of the IRGC who was the head of Khatam al-Anbiya Headquarters for years. He was the Oil Minister during Ahmadinejad’s tenure. He was placed on a US sanctions list in 2010.
5.5.IRGC Brigadier Hassan Palark
Palark was the secretary of the EDH from February 2016 to December 1, 2016. He is a notorious commander of the Qods Force. He is currently the head of Holy Shrine Headquarters, which is another cover for activities of Qods Force.
5.6.IRGC Brigadier Saeed Ohadi
Ohadi has been the secretary of the EHD since December 1, 2016. Prior to taking the current position, he led the “headquarters for Haj and Pilgrimage”, which is another entity under the control of the IRGC.
6.”Economic Development Headquarters of Iran, Iraq and Syria” in Iraq
Subsequent to the downfall of the previous Iraqi government, the IRGC in general and the Qods Force in particular expanded their influence in Iraq under the guise of economic activities, buying real estate, and setting up companies and economic outfits. Following the establishment of the EHD in 2008, the scope and volume of IRGC economic activities in Iraq grew. According to Hassan Kazemi Qomi, the volume of trade was about 10 billion dollars in 2011.
The IRGC’s meddeling in Iraq, under the cover of EHD is very extensive and this is just a glimpse of it.
“Economic Development Headquarters of Iran, Iraq and Syria” in Yemen
In addition to meddling in Syria and Iraq, this headquarters is also in engaged in Yemen war, for example Rostam Qasemi was aboard a plane that went to Yemen on April 8, 2015, where Saudi forces did not allow it to land. During a meeting of the Islamic Association of Engineers on September 25, 2016, Qasemi said:
“After serving in the government, I returned to the IRGC and in cooperation with commander Soleimani started providing logistics to the countries that are in the axis of resistance. I am serving as a soldier (servant) there… A number of Iranian planes had gone to Yemen and did not land and returned upon receiving warnings. It was bad for us.
Thus, there was an order that one plane had to go to Yemen and should land there. In the very same meeting I said please allow me to be in charge of that plane. Eventually I succeeded and I went to Sanaa with the plane. When we entered the Sanaa air space, the Saudis came on the line immediately and said ‘this is a war zone’ and repeatedly warned that this is a no fly zone area.”