Iran Names Commander on U.S Sanctions List as Oil Minister
The Iranian parliament approved a Revolutionary Guards commander named on a U.S. sanctions list to be the country’s oil minister, an appointment that may give the military group more influence over energy matters.
Members of Parliament confirmed Rostam Qasemi, head of the engineering arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, by a vote of 216 to 22, with seven abstentions, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. Qasemi, a veteran of Iran’s war with Iraq in the 1980s, is chief of the Revolutionary Guards’ Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarters.
“Qasemi is a son of the revolution,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an address to the parliament today. “Thanks to his knowledge of the oil industry, he will turn the ministry even more than before to the service of the country and national interests,” Ahmadinejad said before the vote, according to a report by state-run Fars news agency.
Qasemi’s oversight of the oil ministry may give the Revolutionary Guards, the military vanguard of Iran’s Islamic Republic, increased influence over the nation’s energy policy. Iran is the second-largest producer of crude in OPEC, and oil is its main source of export earnings. International economic sanctions have deterred many foreign companies from investing in the country, contributing to stagnation in its energy industry and project delays.
“Having someone so close to the Revolutionary Guards take over the ministry may lead to further institutionalizing an entity that has already been awarded large energy contracts,” said Ali Al-Saffar, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit in London, said in a phone interview.
The new minister is included on a list of Iranian individuals and organizations subject to U.S. sanctions. The U.S. and its allies said the Persian nation is concealing development of nuclear weapons, an allegation that Iran denies. The U.S. has accused the Guards of supporting terrorism and involvement in Iran’s nuclear efforts.
The Treasury Department froze Qasemi’s assets on Feb. 10, 2010, though he has said this wouldn’t stop from fulfilling his ministerial duties.
Qasemi will succeed Masoud Mir-Kazemi, who was fired by Ahmadinejad in May. The president subsequently installed himself as the ministry’s caretaker, citing the oil industry’s importance to Iran’s economy. He was forced to back down following a clash with the parliament and went on in June to name Mohammad Aliabadi, the former head of the country’s Physical Education Organization, as acting oil minister.
Khatam al-Anbiya, formed after the eight-year-long war between Iraq and Iran, was initially involved in the nation’s infrastructure and the building of roads. The group has played an increasing role in the country’s oil and gas sectors amid stricter sanctions, which have pushed international companies out of Iran.
Qasemi, who studied civil engineering, has “overseen large national projects in various sectors including oil, gas, petrochemicals and railroads,” IRNA said in a separate report today. He has 22 years of experience in civil engineering and served the country throughout the war against Iraq as a commander and engineer, the report said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Ladane Nasseri in Dubai at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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