Primary Causes of Poverty and Popular Uprisings in Iran
The Enormous Cost of the Regime's Warmongering, Terrorism and Domestic Suppression
As the uprising against the clerical regime engulfed various Iranian cities, protestors' slogans expressed some aspects of the cause of that movement, namely grueling high prices and economic strains on an array of social sectors. Giving rise to these circumstances is the fact that the religious dictatorship has channeled Iran's human resources and economic reserves toward domestic suppression, warmongering and expansion of terrorism abroad, leading to increasing poverty and deprivation among the population in Iran.
The cost of war and terrorism: Not declared in official state budget
According to assessments conducted by the Iranian Resistance and international experts, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has spent close to $15B to $20B a year in Syria over the past six years.1 The regime's warmongering and fatal intervention in Syria alone cost the Iranian people at least $100B between the start of the war to the end of 2017.
In addition to Syria, Tehran has used its military and terrorist arm, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), to interfere in conflicts in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, and Afghanistan while exporting terrorism to dozens of other countries in five continents around the world.
The cost of manufacturing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, and of acquiring illicit material and equipment for the nuclear program can also be factored into the regime's overall expenditures. A high-level assessment reveals that the regime spends at least $25B to $30B in these arenas from sources that are not declared in its official annual budget.
In order to pay for its warmongering and domestic suppression, the regime has created a private network outside of official state structures. Particularly after 2005 (during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad), Khamenei expanded his economic reach considerably by transferring the ownership of state enterprises, taking control of the financial market, and eliminating state subsidies.
With the help of his enterprises and institutions, which operate through front organizations masked as private companies, Khamenei has taken over the bulk of Iran's economy. This is how Khamenei pays for the undeclared and unofficial costs of war and suppression. These organizations and institutions, which include the IRGC, now control over 50% of Iran's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Official state institutions have no control or oversight on these entities' sources of revenue or expenditures. They are also either exempt from taxes or simply do not pay them.
Some of the most important of these entities include but are not limited to the following2: The IRGC's Khatam al-Anbia Construction Headquarters, other IRGC-affiliated economic powerhouses, Khamenei's Setad (Headquarters for Executing Imam's Orders), the Mostaz'afan (Oppressed) Foundation, Astan-e Qods Razavi (religious foundation in Mashhad), Shahid (Martyr) Foundation, Emdad (Aid) Committee, IRGC Cooperatives Foundation, Bassij Cooperatives Foundation, Qadir Investment Company (tied to the Ministry of Defense), the Armed Forces Social Welfare Organization (SATA), Khatam al-Osia Base (tied to the Ministry of Defense), State Security Forces Cooperatives Foundation (NAJA), and the Islamic Republic Army Cooperatives Foundation (BTAJA).
The cost of war and terrorism: as declared in the official state budget (military and security organs)
An overview of the budget bill submitted to parliament (Majlis) in December 2017 by the Hassan Rouhani administration for the new Persian calendar year (March 2018 to March 2019) indicates a total budget of 425000 billion tomans (121.5 billion dollars. )3 Out of this amount, 93937B tomans ($26.8 billion dollars )4, or 22% of the entire budget, has been allocated to military and security-related spending, as well as to the export of terrorism and fundamentalism abroad. Details of the regime's military and security costs are as follows:
- Security affairs (including the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, the State Security Forces, the Special Tribunal for Clerics, etc.): 19745.9 billion tomans (5.641billion dollars) or 4.6% of the entire budget
- Military affairs (IRGC, Bassij, army, etc.): 68483 billion tomans (19.5 billion dollars) or 16.17% of the entire budget.
- Export of terrorism: 5708 billion tomans (1.6 billion dollars) or 1.34% of the entire budget
An assessment of annual expenditures on warmongering and suppression
A high-level assessment reveals that the minimum cost of keeping the clerical regime in power in Iran through warmongering and internal suppression is comprised of the following:
- 26.8 billion dollars : Funds allocated to military and security-related affairs and export of terrorism in the official state budget
- 27.5 billion dollars: Money channeled to military and security-related activities and export of terrorism, funded by revenues obtained from institutions controlled by the supreme leader's office and the IRGC
Based on these figures, the regime spends a total of at least 55 billion dollars (official and known unofficial sources of funding) in order to advance domestic suppression, warmongering and foreign terrorism.
It is important to note that the Iranian regime spends an amount that is at least close to the officially declared budget on war, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction by revenues generated from enteties tied to the supreme leader. This analysis reveals that the structure of the dictatorship has been shaped in a way that allows the advancement of the clerical dictatorship's own goals and objectives. In other words, the Iranian people's resources are being used to prop up the dictatorship.
Case studies: How funding of warmongering and suppression fares against other state expenditures
In order to see how the dictatorship's warmongering and suppression have seized wealth from the Iranian people, resulting in widespread poverty, a few examples and case studies are provided below.
Compared to the rebuilding costs after a recent earthquake: In November 2017, an earthquake shook the western province of Kermanshah, resulting in at least 1000 deaths and thousands wounded, while more than 100000 people were rendered homeless. In a preliminary analysis5, the Kermanshah provincial government said the earthquake has resulted in at least 5632 billion tomans (1.61 billion dollars) in damage. The analysis added that this amount is equal to the province's total budget for 11 years (approximately 140 million dollars per year). This means that the price tag for the clerical regime's warmongering and suppression in a single year is 40 times more than the total damage resulting from the 2017 Kermanshah earthquake or more than 440 times the official annual budget of the entire Kermanshah province.
Compared to the health care budget: The 2018 budget for the provision of health care to 80 million Iranians has been officially declared as 57000 billion tomans (16.3 billion dollars). This is a mere third of the regime's annual warmongering and suppression costs. This means that every year, the entire Iranian population is forced to pay an amount that is three times higher than their total health care budget for warmongering and terrorism.
The Iranian people's welfare compared to salaries paid to Iranian regime mercenaries in Syria: According to statements made by Afghan mercenaries of the Iranian regime during public interviews with state-run media, each are paid 2.5 million tomans, (600 or 700 dollars) per month, every month. Nearly 20,000 Afghan nationals are dispatched to Syria by the IRGC. As such, every month, the regime pays 12 million to 14 million dollars to its Afghan mercenaries in Syria. This is while the Rouhani government spokesman, Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, has said that the government is planning to pay a monthly stipend of 250 thousand tomans or nearly 70 dollars to every Iranian living under the absolute poverty line. So, an Afghan sent to Syria is paid 10 times more than an Iranian living under the line of absolute poverty. This is while Afghans are sent to Syria by the IRGC as cheap soldiers, and their salaries represent a miniscule portion of the regime's constant expenditures in Syria.
Expenditures in Syria compared to financial aid to all people living under the absolute poverty line in Iran: On September 17, 2017,6 the head of the Emdad Khomeini Committee (Aid Committee), Seyyed Parviz Fattah Qarebaghi7, said it is estimated that the number of people living under the absolute poverty line in Iran ranges from 16 to 20 million. Assuming these people do receive a stipend of almost $70/month, the regime would have to come up with a monthly total of 1.4 billion dollars or an annual total of 17 billion dollars. This means that the amount the regime is spending in Syria alone (not the entire cost of warmongering and suppression, which is several times higher) could have been re-allocated to pay the monthly stipends of nearly 20 million impoverished people in Iran.
That is why during the recent uprising in various Iranian cities, protestors shouted slogans like "Leave Syria, think about us" and "Neither Gaza nor Lebanon, I dedicate my life to Iran." They also targeted the entire regime, demanding its overthrow by chanting "Death to Khamenei" and "Khamenei, shame on you, let go of the country." They realize that the only way to obtain the Iranian people's rights is through the overthrow of the clerical regime in its entirety.
1. Khamenei's velayat-e faqih (absolute clerical rule) has allocated Iran's official and unofficial revenues and national wealth to serve foreign warmongering and terrorism as well as domestic suppression in order to ensure the regime's survival. This is the primary cause of the backbreaking poverty haunting the country.
2. As the regime's armed entity, the IRGC has had the largest share in stealing the national wealth. A substantial portion of economic deals and control over key industries like oil and gas belongs to the IRGC. In addition to embezzlement, the IRGC then allocates resulting revenues to warmongering and terrorism as well as to suppression inside Iran.
3. Any deals with the Iranian regime will strengthen the velayat-e faqih dictatorship and its armed entity the IRGC, resulting in the escalation of suppression of the Iranian people's uprisings and the massacre of peoples across the region.
4. In order to eliminate the dictatorship's machinery of war and suppression, all of the regime's officials, the IRGC and the array of economic organizations and institutions in their orbit of influence must be placed under international sanctions.
1- Based on Bloomberg estimates quoting Steven Heydemann at the U.S. Institute of Peace; and "How Iran Fuels Syria War: Details of the IRGC Command HQ and Key Officers in Syria," NCRI- U.S. Representative Office, November 2015.
2- See "The Rise of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Financial Empire: How the Supreme Leader and the IRGC Rob the People to Fund International Terror," NCRI-U.S. Representative Office, March 2017. The detailed study shows how ownership of property in various spheres of the economy is gradually shifted from the population writ large towards a minority ruling elite comprised of the Supreme Leader’s office and the IRGC, using 14 powerhouses.
3- 425,000,000,000,000 tomans: converted to dollars based on exchange rate of $1=3,500 tomans. This exchange rate has also been used for the regime's official state budget.
4- Equal to 93,937,000,000,000 tomans
5-See "Damages Resulting from the Earthquake Equal to Kermanshah's Budget of 11 Years," state-run Entekhab daily, November 25, 2017 (in Farsi).
6- See IRGC-affiliated Fars News website, September 17, 2017 (in Farsi).
7- Qarebaghi is an IRGC Brig. Gen., who controls the Emdad Committee, an entity affiliated with the regime's supreme leader.