After Soleimani, IRGC’s Economic Primacy Ensures It Will Go On Destroying

On January 3, President Trump neutralized the person most responsible for spreading terror across the Middle East – Major-General Qassem Soleimani. As head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) -- the hand behind Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Houthis, and the Iraqi Shiite militias responsible for the deaths of over 600 U.S. soldiers -- Soleimani’s demise is long overdue.  However, while its military capabilities will be degraded in the short-term, the IRGC will go on terrorizing given its massive financial resources -- which accrue from its entrenched position within the Iranian economy.

One of the key individuals tasked with maintaining the IRGC’s economic preeminence is the far less well-known Dr. Saeed Mohammad (a.k.a. Saeed Mohammad Esmaili).

Mohammad joined the “business” side of the IRGC in 1987 and has steadily climbed its corporate ladder over 30 years. From 2009 to 2014, Mohammad was CEO of Sepasad, an OFAC-designated firm specializing in big engineering projects. After Sepasad, Mohammad served as a Director at several IRGC-owned/affiliated companies, including Shahab Sang Mining Industries, Behsaz Faraz Iranian, and Iranian Atlas Group. He has also represented the IRGC’s “cooperative foundation” Bonyad Taavon Sepah – a hugely powerful investment vehicle sanctioned by the U.S., the EU and Canada.

A true IRGC “company man,” his three decades of loyalty to the Foreign Terrorist Organization was eventually rewarded with the top job on the IRGC’s corporate side (while incorporating the prowess of the IRGC’s military engineering branch).

In October 2018, the IRGC’s Commander-in-Chief appointed Mohammad as “Commander” of Khatam al-Anbiya (KAA) Construction Headquarters (a.k.a. KAA Construction Base, KAA-IRGC, KCB, or GHORB). 

KAA is the IRGC’s construction and engineering branch. As Iran’s corporatist Mafia, no big development project in Iran can occur without KAA’s green light. With hundreds of subsidiaries and registered companies, this huge conglomerate does more than any other company to help maintain the IRGC’s economic pre-eminence.

A month into the job, Mohammad set out his blueprint for KAA to further cement its place as the connective tissue linking every sector of Iran’s economy. In his presentation slide at the International Project Management Conference held in Tehran in late 2018, Mohammad explicitly positioned KAA at the center of Iran’s official “Resistance Economy Doctrine,” acting as intermediary between government, the construction industry and ‘the people’ (in terms of resource distribution). Of course, this all aligns with the Supreme Leader’s own economic vision.

Unlike Soleimani and his ex-soldier cohorts, Mohammad is part of a new breed of younger professional technocrats that the regime is installing in top IRGC roles to shore up the ideals of the Revolution.  And also unlike Soleimani, Mohammad has shunned the limelight, avoided the headlines and has so far eluded U.S. sanctions. But given his critical role and his status as one of the “IRGC’s financial elite,” that should be put right. Mohammad should be individually designated, like the several senior regime officials designated on January 10, 2020. This will inhibit Mohammad’s and KAA’s abilities to appear in conferences, raise funds, solicit investments or sign contracts with foreign entities.

The IRGC is not simply the Quds Force, which is merely the tip of Iran’s bloody spear. Working alongside is a formidable military-construction-engineering complex of unprecedented reach and importance – the KAA. While killing Soleimani was a tactical and optical win for the U.S. over the near-term, an effective long-game requires the U.S. to complement the take-out by further squeezing KAA and immediately sanctioning its discreet “Commander.”