Iran's Ahmadinejad nominates IRGC's Ghasemi as oil minister
Dubai (Platts)--27Jul2011/631 am EDT/1031 GMT
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Wednesday nominated Rostam
Ghasemi, a commander in the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as
oil minister, a controversial choice to head up the most strategic cabinet
portfolio given that the ideological army is on an international blacklist.
"Rostam Ghasemi...is introduced for the oil ministry," Ahmadinejad said
in a letter read out at a parliament session carried live on state radio.
Three other ministers were also nominated.
Ghasemi, commander of the construction arm of the IRGC, the Khatam
al-Anbiya headquarters, emerged as a late challenger to Mohammad Aliabadi,
who has been caretaker oil minister since early June.
Should Ghasemi win parliamentary approval, the IRGC would be in
effective control of the OPEC oil producing country's lifeline energy
industry, cementing what some analysts say is the militarization of the
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Although Khatam al-Anbiya has a better track record than other local
contractors in delivering projects, its status as pariah on the international
scene is likely to complicate Iran's efforts to revive a sector plagued by
delays and a shortage of cash, modern technology and manpower.
The US has had the IRGC and its affiliates on a blacklist for years and
last June tightened these sanctions to include several branches of the elite
force for what it said was their suspected involvement in nuclear
proliferation activities. Ghasemi was among several IRGC officials included
on the US Treasury's blacklist and whose assets were ordered frozen.
The European Union also bans dealings with the IRGC, its affiliates and
officials, who are also subject to travel bans, which might make it difficult
for Ghasemi to represent Iran, current holder of OPEC's rotating presidency,
to attend OPEC meetings in Vienna.
The UN Security Council lists the IRGC, Khatam al Anbiya and dozens of
companies owned or involved in related companies as state entities linked to
proliferation activities. A UN resolution adopted last July ordered IRGC's
assets frozen to prevent the powerful group from financing its projects.
Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said a confirmation session would be
held next Wednesday to debate the nominations of Ghasemi and three other
ministerial posts amid early indications that Ghasemi was likely to win a
vote of confidence after the influential parliamentary energy committee gave
"I hereby announce, on behalf of the parliament's energy committee,
that the committee's opinion about Rostam Ghasemi is positive and it approves
his choice for this position," committee spokesman Emad Hosseini was quoted
as saying by Fars news agency.
"Given his relevant background in oil and gas sectors and mastering many
projects including the South Pars field as well as other oil projects, and
given the fact that he has been in charge of many projects in this industry,
it is very much likely that the parliament approves him as oil minister," he
Hosseini said Ghasemi had submitted his plans for the energy industry to
the committee. "In the past few days, the committee has seriously studied his
plans and we were waiting for his nomination to announce our views."
Iranian news websites said earlier this week that Ghasemi's nomination
was agreed last Thursday after conditions he set for accepting the job were
accepted, among them the right to name his own deputy oil minister. Reports
surfaced on Wednesday that Aliabadi, who is an Ahmadinejad ally, may be named
deputy oil minister.
The president's office, however, issued a denial Wednesday saying there
were no conditions attached to Ghasemi's nomination.
Ghasemi said after his nomination was made public that he had submitted
a policy paper outlining his plans for the energy sector.
"After gaining a vote of confidence from parliament, I will use Khatam
al-Anbiya Headquarters alongside other contractors," he told semi-official
news agency Fars.
Ghasemi, who holds the rank of Brigadier General, said his plans for the
energy industry include "maintenance of sustainable production from oil
fields, more exploitation from shared fields, collection of associated gas and
boosting investment in the oil industry," adding that he had submitted his
agenda to parliament.
The IRGC and its affiliates have grown into an economic power in Iran,
largely as a result of the sanctions, imposed by the international community
over suspicions that Tehran is secretly developing nuclear weapons, a charge
the Iranians deny.
The involvement of IRGC or its subsidiaries would make it difficult to
source parts and equipment from foreign companies, which run the risk of
being in breach of the sanctions should they have to deal with Khatam
al-Anbiya or any other banned entity.
Khatam al-Anbiya expanded its presence in the mainstay energy sector
after foreign oil companies pulled out because of the sanctions. Initially
established shortly after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 as guardians of the
clerical establishment answering to the Supreme Leader, the IRGC and dozens
of its branches have expanded their influence beyond their original mandate
and are involved in virtually every sector of the Iranian economy.
Iran is the second biggest oil producer in OPEC with current production
estimated at 3.7 million b/d, though many of its older oil fields suffer from
a lack of investment due to sanctions and are in decline while the country
consumes nearly all the gas that it produces.