Saturday, May 28, 2005

Attack on Rafsanjani - The Forbes Lies Page 4

Forbes.com: Millionaire Mullahs: "On The Cover/Top Stories
Page 4 of 4 from Millionaire Mullahs
Paul Klebnikov, 07.21.03

Implication: that he has access to a secret reservoir of money that can be tapped when the need arises. That may have been what Ayatollah Rafsanjani had in mind when he declared recently that the Islamic Republic needed to keep large funds in reserve. But who is to determine when Islam is in danger?

As minister of the Revolutionary Guards in the 1980s, Rafiqdoost played a key role in sponsoring Hezbollah in Lebanon--which kidnapped foreigners, hijacked airplanes, set off car bombs, trafficked in heroin and pioneered the use of suicide bombers. According to Gregory Sullivan, spokesman for the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau at the U.S. State Department, the foundations are the perfect vehicles to carry out Iran's shadow foreign policy. (One of them offered the $2.8 million bounty to anyone who carried out Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa to kill British author Salman Rushdie.) Whenever suspicion of complicity in a terrorist incident--in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Argentina--turns to Iran, the Tehran government has denied involvement. State Department officials suspect that such operations may be sponsored by one of the foundations and semiautonomous units of the Revolutionary Guards. If anyone in Iran is aiding al Qaeda, that may be the best place to look.

Iran's foundations are a law unto themselves. The largest "charity" (at least in terms of real estate holdings) is the centuries-old Razavi Foundation, charged with caring for Iran's most revered shrine--the tomb of Reza, the Eighth Shiite Imam, in the northern city of Mashhad. It is run by one of Iran's leading hard-line mullahs, Ayatollah Vaez-Tabasi, who prefers to stay out of the public eye but emerges occasionally to urge death to apostates and other opponents of the clerical regime.

The Razavi Foundation owns vast tracts of urban real estate all across Iran, as well as hotels, factories, farms and quarries. Its assets are impossible to value with any precision, since the foundation has never released an inventory of its holdings, but Iranian economists speak of a net asset value of $15 billion or more. The foundation also receives generous contributions from the millions of pilgrims who visit the Mashhad shrine each year.

What happens to annual revenues estimated in the hundreds of millions--perhaps billions--of dollars? Not all of it goes to cover the maintenance costs of mosques, cemeteries, religious schools and libraries. Over the past decade the foundation has bought new businesses and properties, established investment banks (together with investors from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), funded real estate projects and financed big foreign trade deals.

The driving force behind the commercialization of the Razavi Foundation is Ayatollah Tabasi's son, Naser, who was put in charge of the Sarakhs Free Trade Zone, on the border with the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan. In the 1990s the foundation poured hundreds of millions of dollars into this project, funding a rail link between Iran and Turkmenistan, new highways, an international airport, a hotel and office buildings. It even paid $2.3 million to a Swiss firm to erect a huge tent for the ceremonies inaugurating the Iran-Turkmenistan rail link.

Then it all went wrong. In July 2001 Naser Tabasi was dismissed as director of the Free Trade Zone. Two months later he was arrested and charged with fraud in connection with a Dubai-based company called Al-Makasib. The details of the case remain murky, but four months ago the General Court of Tehran concluded that Naser Tabasi had not known that he was breaking the law and acquitted him.

Few receive even a slap on the wrist. A rare exception: Hard-line cleric Hadi Ghaffari, who specialized in seizing expropriated properties, like Star Stockings (maker of sexy lingerie), and reselling them at a nice profit. He was convicted of embezzlement in the early 1990s.

Iran's most distinguished senior clerics are disgusted by the mullahcrats. Ayatollah Taheri, Friday prayer leader of the city of Isfahan, resigned in protest earlier this year. "When I hear that some of the privileged progeny and special people, some of whom even don cloaks and turbans, are competing amongst themselves to amass the most wealth," he said, "I am drenched with the sweat of shame."

Meanwhile the clerical elite has mismanaged the nation into senseless poverty. With 9% of the world's oil and 15% of its natural gas, Iran should be a very rich country. It has a young, educated population and a long tradition of craftsmanship and international commerce. But per capita income today is actually 7% below what it was before the revolution. Iranian economists estimate capital flight (to Dubai and other safe havens) at up to $3 billion a year.

No wonder so many students turn to the streets in protest. The dictatorship tells them what to think, what to wear, and what to eat and drink. It has also been robbing them of their future."

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home