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Iran: Who Is Mohsen Rezaei, Ebrahim Raisi’s Vice President for Economic Affairs?

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Overview

The Iranian regime’s new president Ebrahim Raisi appointed Mohsen Rezaei as vice president for economic affairs, secretary of the Supreme Council of Economic Coordination, and secretary of the administration’s Economic Headquarters.

Rezaei is the first commander of the regime’s notorious Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). He is best known for sending thousands of Iranian children to minefields during the Iran-Iraq war and for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA center in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Before becoming Raisi’s vice-president, Rezaei served as a member and secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council since 1997. He has run for president several times but has never been selected by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

His prior statements on economic affairs suggest that his role in the Raisi administration will include promoting terrorism as a means of securing the regime’s interests. In June 2015, while world powers were finalizing the Iran nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Rezaei threatened the US in a way that highlighted the regime’s reliance on hostage-taking as a source of revenue.

“If the Americans want to have a bad eye on Iran and think of a military strike, they can be sure that we will capture at least 1,000 Americans in the first week, and then they will have to pay billions of dollars to free each of them. Then our economic problem may be solved,” he said.

Rezaie has also promoted a ridiculous plan to improve Iran’s economy by simply declaring that the value of Iran’s inflation-damaged national currency is equivalent to the dollar and euro. Meanwhile, he has helped the IRGC to continue turning a tidy profit during the inflation crisis by serving as commander of the Khatam-ol-Anbiya Headquarters, the conglomerate that forms the center of the IRGC’s financial empire, which reportedly accounts for the vast majority of Iran’s GDP.

On January 10, 2020, the US Department of the Treasury placed Rezaei on its sanctions list for his role in “advancing the regime’s destabilizing objectives.”

Some of the positions Rezaei has held in the regime include:

  • Member of Ruhollah Khomeini’s security team 1979
  • Member of the IRGC Statute Drafting Board 1979
  • Founding commander of the IRGC Political Intelligence Unit from 1979 to 1981
  • Commander of the IRGC from 1981 to 1997
  • Establishing two universities affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards
  • Commander of the Khatam-ol-Anbiya camp from 1988 to 1989
  • Member and secretary of the Expediency Council since 1997

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Rezaia’s Role after the revolution and during the Iran-Iraq war

Sabzevar Rezaei Mir Ghaed, also known as Mohsen Rezaei, was born on September 1, 1954 in the city of Masjed Soleiman. Rezaei went to Tehran in 1975 to study mechanics and established connections with a religious group called Mansourun. He and several other members of the group, formed the Mojahedin Organization of the Islamic Revolution to confront the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) after the 1979 Revolution.

Rezaei was also a key element in the repression of the ethnic minorities, particularly Kurds, at the beginning of the revolution since he was one of the top IRGC commanders. Afterward, he and his ilk were active in suppressing and arresting dissidents, mainly MEK supporters.

After establishing the IRGC, he became a member of its Central Council and the commander of the IRGC’s Intelligence, a position he kept for two years. In the first months of the Iran-Iraq war, then-Supreme Leader, Ruhollah Khomeini, appointed Rezaei as the IRGC’s commander-in-chief. He served in that role from 1981 to 1997, during which time tens of thousands of children were used as “one-time soldiers” to sweep Iraqi minefields.

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Iran-Iraq War and Rezaei’s war crime

The Iranian regime prolonged the destructive Iran-Iraq war despite international outcry. The regime launched several offensives, known as Operation Karbala, which failed and resulted in thousands of Iranians dying.

Operation Karbala-4 was one of the deadliest failed offenses, carried out by the IRGC under Rezaei’s command. Over 60,000 IRGC and Basij forces crossed the Shatt al-Arab north and south of Khorramshahr in dinghies and motorized seacrafts and immediately met the Iraq forces waiting for them. Yahya Rahim-Safavi, a former commander of the IRGC, acknowledged that Operation Karbala-4 “resulted in at least 55,000 casualties among the IRGC and Basij forces.”

The regime’s official statistics identified 10,000 Iranians as killed or missing in Operation Karbala-4 and a further 7,000 in Karbala-5. Another 26,000 were listed as injured in those two operations. While the regime claimed and the suicide mission of the Operation Karbala 4 was to capture Iraqi territory, the real goal was to disrupt the Kuwait peace conference, as Khomeini wanted to continue the war.

In 2019, Rezaei acknowledged in a tweet that Operation Karbala 4 aimed to “deceive the enemy.” This increased the regime’s infighting and underlined how Rezaei and other officials sent thousands of Iranians to their deaths in an effort to achieve their own malign goals.

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From right to left: Mohsen Rezai-Anis Naqash-Mohammad Saleh al-Husseini-Mohsen Rafiqdoust

Mohsen Rezaei’s role in spreading terrorism and oppressing dissidents

The notorious ward 209 of Evin Prison was controlled by the Revolutionary Guards before the formation of the Ministry of Intelligence. This ward has been used to torture dissidents, members, and supporters of political organizations such as the MEK. As the IRGC’s commander, Rezaei is responsible for the crimes committed in prisons.

“After joining the IRGC, Mohsen Rezaei transformed the IRGC’s Intelligence and research unit, which was supposed to be the IRGC’s mastermind and planner and act as a maximum military intelligence unit for the IRGC, into a security organization. He also suggested during the war that the IRGC should have organizations to deal with the opposition,” Mohsen Sazgara, one of the IRGC’s first commanders, acknowledged.

Under Rezaei’s command, the IRGC actively engaged in assassinations abroad after the Iran-Iraq war, including that of the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, Sadegh Sharafkandi, at the Mykonos restaurant on September 17, 1997, in Berlin, Germany. Two other KDP leaders were also killed in the blast, along with a Red Cross worker. A German court later found that the Iranian regime was directly involved in the assassinations. A witness named Abolghasem Mesbahi, a former intelligence officer of the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence was one of the main sources for the German prosecutor’s office and identified the plot as having been ordered by Iran’s “Special Affairs Committee.”

This committee obtained approval for the assassinations from Khamenei. The members of this committee were:

  • The regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, or his representative Asghar Mir Hejazi
  • The regime’s then-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani or his representative Mohsen Hashemi
  • Ali Akbar Velayati was in charge of foreign policy
  • Ali Fallahian, then Minister of Intelligence and Security
  • Mohammad Rishahri, the first Minister of Intelligence and Security
  • Mohsen Rezaei Mir , Commander of the IRGC
  • Reza Seifollahi, then head of the police force
  • Abul Qasem Khazali, member of the regime’s Guardian Council

Under Rezaei’s 16-year tenure, the IRGC played an active role in repression at home, founding and sponsoring foreign terrorist proxy groups throughout the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, and taking part in terrorist operations abroad, including the assassination of dissidents in Europe including in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and Germany.

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The bombing of the AMIA Jewish Center

On July 18, 1994, a massive truck bomb outside a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, Argentina killed 85 people and left more than 200 injured. On August 10, the Iranian Resistance declared that the Argentina bombing had been planned in Tehran by the IRGC, the Intelligence, and Foreign Ministries, and approved by the regime’s Supreme National Security Council.

In 2006, Argentinian federal government prosecutors officially filed a lawsuit against the perpetrators of this attack, including Mohsen Rezaei and Raisi’s new Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi, who was then the commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force. As a result, all perpetrators were placed on Interpol’s wanted list.

Mohsen Rezaei's remarks on Iran joining the FATF

Mohsen Rezaei and Iran’s economy

Rezaei has become Raisi’s vice-president for economic affairs despite having little to no experience in managing the economy.

Rezaei will head the Supreme Council of Economic Coordination, an extrajudicial institution established in 2018 by a decree from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The council is also known as the “Economic War Room,” and its main goal is to tackle the economic crisis.

“After all, a team in the field of economics is starting to work, which has a history of strange promises and policies in its record, and all of these draw worrying conditions for the future of the country’s economy,” the state-run Toseeh-Irani (Iranian development) News wrote in reaction to Rezaei’s new positions.

Rezaei gave an example of these “strange promises” during the sham presidential election. He claimed that if he were to become president, he would increase cash subsidies by ten times and raise the value of the Iranian rial to the level of the dollar and the euro. Each US dollar is now traded for more than 280,000 rials.

Rezaei’s bogus promises to reform Iran’s economy are in contrast with his previous comments about Iran’s “damaged economic infrastructure and structural issues” (Fars News Agency, January 11, 2021).  During the sham presidential election, he also told the official IRIB News that the “next eight years will be the [regime’s] toughest years, especially in economic fields.”

Rezaei speaks of economic reform while Khamenei and his IRGC thugs monopolize the entire Iranian economy. Rezaei was the commander of the regime’s Khatam-ol-Anbiya Construction Headquarters, which dominates Iran’s construction projects. In its charter, the most important goal of the complex is to “efficiently utilize the available construction and economic resources, capacities and talents of the IRGC to continue the Islamic Revolution.”

According to an exclusive report published by the Iranian Resistance, “Khatam is the largest contractor for governmental projects. It has 5,000 subcontractors and about 135,000 employees. The cartel enjoys the complete support of the regime and has easy access to banking and financial resources and sustained contracts with no competitive bidding.”

Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters also controls dozens of so-called private companies, in addition to hundreds of other private companies controlled by the IRGC and Khamenei’s financial institutions. In October 2007, The United States Treasury Department designated Khatam al-Anbiya for financing terrorism. But now that Rezaei is president for the Supreme Council of Economic Coordination, he stands to facilitate the IRGC’s continued plunder of Iran’s national wealth, in keeping with the council’s mission of  “coordinating the economic activities between the government and other sectors,” especially private sector entities controlled by the IRGC.

Conclusion

Starting in 2020 with the sham parliamentary election, then in 2021’s presidential election, Khamenei handpicked the parliament and selected Raisi as the regime’s president to consolidate power in his regime.

Raisi and his government officials, including Rezaei, have come to power to serve Khamenei and the moribund regime, which faces growing public hatred. Raisi’s government has no economic or social plan for people. It is only tasked to preserve the regime and control the restive society through oppression.

The Iranian economic crises are due to the regime’s corruption and financing of terrorism. Thus, the Raisi government and its officials like Rezaei are unable to resolve economic crises, and will inevitably resort to exerting more pressure on the Iranian people while further amplifying state corruption.