Iranian IRGC’s strategies to evade international sanctions


In recent years, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has been executing a comprehensive scheme known as the “Resistance Economy”, designed to exert complete control over Iran’s economic core, particularly the oil and gas sector. This endeavor involves the armed forces, primarily the IRGC, with IRGC Major General Mohammad Bagheri, Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces, spearheading the effort. The establishment of a specialized body called the “Resistance Economy and National and Transnational Cooperation Headquarters” within the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces underscores the seriousness of this initiative.

As per official documents, IRGC Major General Amir Hatami, the Minister of Defense and Support of the Armed Forces, revealed in a November 2020 letter to Khamenei that a substantial portion of Iran’s daily oil production of 1.46 million barrels (990 thousand barrels) belongs to Refinery/Petro-refinery companies linked to the armed forces. This also includes The Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO), an enormous economic empire controlled by Khamenei, valued at a minimum of US$100 billion.

To further circumvent international sanctions, particularly financial ones, the regime’s armed forces, especially the IRGC, have hatched a plan to acquire oil tankers and vessels for transporting petroleum and petrochemical products. These covert efforts are aimed at smuggling these goods and bypassing sanctions to fund their domestic repression, belligerent activities, interference in foreign affairs, and support for proxy forces and terrorist organizations. Specialized working groups have been formed to facilitate the acquisition of these vessels.

According to a highly confidential document dated April 5, 2021, from the “Ministry of Defense and Support of the Armed Forces”, IRGC Brigadier General Seyed Hojatullah Qureshi, Deputy of Logistics and Support of the Armed Forces, directed Amir Najafipour, CEO of SATA (Social Security Organization Armed Forces), to allocate US$19 million for purchasing a crude oil transport vessel mandated by the Ministry of Defense. This decision was made on February 27, 2021, during an “Oil Committee” meeting led by IRGC Major General Amir Hatami.

In a confidential meeting on September 28, 2020, approval was granted to purchase two Suez Max ships and a VLCC ship, and financing with an 8 percent interest rate was deemed suitable. Subsequently, on December 29, 2020, the acquisition of four new medium-range (MR) ships was greenlit, with Chinese financing worth US$140 million over two years. Additionally, the purchase of a second-hand MR ship for US$17 million with guarantees from the regime’s military organizations was approved. The acquisition of four MR ships for US$68 million with a 20 percent cash payment and 80 percent foreign financing with interest was also sanctioned, along with the purchase of two Suez Max ships and a VLCC ship with a capacity of 2,250,000 barrels of oil.

The armed forces’ economic bodies have also been scouting for second-hand ships to transport methanol petrochemical products. On December 29, 2020, approval was granted for two second-hand methanol transporters, with GIC International, a SATA-owned company, seeking to purchase a methanol transfer ship for US$18 million in 2021.

These activities are to remain confidential, according to regime authorities.

To complete this cycle, the IRGC has established a network of front companies outside Iran, aiming to evade sanctions effectively. One such entity, the Petrochemical Commercial Co. International (PCCI), established in 2000, operates by creating branches and companies with identical names in unsanctioned foreign countries.

PCCI, owned by Ghadir Investment Holding, a major Iranian commercial and investment entity affiliated with the Social Security Organization of the Armed Forces (SATA), was initially registered in the Jersey Companies Registration Office in Channel Island, England. It has been involved in various activities, including selling Iran’s crude oil quota, selling Venezuelan oil, and exporting chemical products like urea to Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

PCCI managers have claimed that because the company is registered outside Iran and not on any sanctions list, it can conduct currency transfer operations and buy goods from Iranian companies as a foreign entity, selling them to foreign customers. Between 2019 and 2022, PCCI sold 605,000 tons of urea from various Iranian petrochemical facilities.

PCCI has also engaged in a contract to sell Venezuelan heavy oil (Crude Oil Mery 16) to PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil and gas company, in southern regions of China.

The revenue generated from these activities primarily serves to intensify the repression of Iranian protests and support terrorism both domestically and abroad.

Documents exposed by the Telegram channel “Uprising until Overthrow” reveal that the IRGC has been channeling its revenue toward bolstering the suppression of the Iranian people’s protests and supporting terrorism beyond Iran’s borders. In November 2022, the Supreme National Security Council discussed the urgent need to allocate resources to address “Emergency shortages of security and law enforcement units of the IRGC and FARAJA”, the force responsible for quelling uprisings. A highly confidential letter from Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri to regime President Ebrahim Raisi in November 2022 outlined the IRGC’s immediate budget requirements, including vehicles, equipment, uniforms, and operational expenses, totaling over US$350 million.

The consequences of these budget allocations are evident in the suppression of the Iranian people’s uprising, with at least 750 demonstrators killed, including children and women, and thousands arrested and facing death sentences or permanent injuries from the use of repressive equipment.

Moreover, documents reveal that the regime has diverted more than US$11 billion of oil revenue to Syria from 2012 to 2020, contributing to Syria’s substantial debt. This diversion occurred both before and after sanctions were suspended under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, indicating that funds intended for the Iranian people were used to fuel repression, terror, and aggression.

The IRGC’s threats extend beyond Iran, as it nurtures, trains, equips, and finances proxy terrorist groups and has directly threatened Europe with terrorism. These threats are real and have affected individuals within the Iranian resistance movement.

In recent months, Western media have reported that despite sanctions, Iran’s oil exports have approached pre-embargo levels, providing the regime with significant additional income. However, this wealth appears to be funneled primarily to the IRGC and Khamenei’s office. Despite increased oil sales, the economic situation for ordinary Iranians has deteriorated, with rising poverty rates and skyrocketing inflation.

It is imperative to consider naming the IRGC as a terrorist organization in its entirety and imposing strict restrictions on its activities, especially in the economic domain. Failure to do so only enhances the IRGC’s access to financial resources for repression and terrorism. Any significant dealings with Iran today inevitably involve the IRGC.

In 2018, a terrorist plot planned by an Iranian diplomat to bomb a large meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in Paris, attended by 500 prominent European and American figures, was foiled. Although the plot was traced back to high levels of the Iranian regime, Western countries and the European Union’s response was insufficient. Even more concerning, the same diplomat, after serving a prison sentence, was released in Iran, demonstrating a troubling level of appeasement.

The UK Parliament has explicitly called for the proscription of the IRGC, yet this demand remains unfulfilled. Recent statements by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri-Kani indicate that the UK has been negotiating with Iran regarding hostages. Such negotiations, without addressing the

IRGC’s terrorist activities, only embolden Iran’s terrorist ambitions.

As the anniversary of the Iranian people’s uprising approaches, it is clear that the underlying causes of discontent and protest have not vanished. The explosive state of Iranian society persists, with organized resistance movements growing. The regime is aware of this, as demonstrated by recent waves of executions and arrests to suppress potential uprisings.

If the West continues to support this regime and delays taking action against the IRGC, the primary source of terrorism and belligerence, it may ultimately be overthrown, but at the cost of greater suffering and bloodshed for the Iranian people.


  1. This is an excellent analysis that addresses the necessity of action against the Iranian regime. If no action is taken, the consequences would be devastating – for people of Iran and the world.


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