Track Persia – Mar 9, 2017
The London-based Foreign Office of the Iranian opposition the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) held a press conference in London on Tuesday March 7th to release sensitive information on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)’s illicit network of docks used to smuggle weapons to Iran’s proxies in the region.
The revelations which had been gathered by another Iranian opposition allied with NCRI, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MEK), was presented in detail by NCRI’s Foreign Office representative Hossien Abedini.
According to Mr Abedini, the information had not previously revealed. The intelligence was mainly on the number of IRGC companies involved in exporting weapons to the regional groups affiliated with the Iranian regime, particularly those operating in Yemen, which has been under sea blockade since 2015.
The interesting part of the revelations is that following the closure of the docks in Yemen to the regime’s ships, the IRGC companies have used ports in Oman to smuggle weapons to Houthi militia in Yemen. The exiled Iranian opposition group also includes information and photographs of a number of the 90 docks controlled by Iran’s IRGC in southern Iran and IRCG Navy’s headquarters in charge of controlling docks and ports in southern Iran.
The press conference also included the release of the joint study by European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (EIFA) and the International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ) titled, “Destructive Role of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in the Middle East”. The study was represented by Struan Stevenson, president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association and a lecturer on Middle East policy. Dr Matthew Offord, Conservative MP, also attended to address Iran’s malign influence in the Middle East.
Track Persia, which attended the press conference, outlines the most important points released by NCRI in this press conference as following:
- IRGC which answers directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and is accused of directing terrorist activities inside and outsider Iran has taken over Iran’s key economic resources to form financial independent empire to fund its activities.
- IRGC is exclusively controlling nearly 90 of Iran’s 212 official docks.
- In 1982, Khomeini ordered IRGC to set up docks without government supervision and concealed from international organizations. The goal for setting up these docks is to evade international sanctions.
- The revenue from running these docks is estimated around 12 billion US dollars per year.
- In addition to smuggling goods such as petrol, gas, chemical products, cigarettes, narcotics, alcoholic drinks and mobile phones, the IRGC used these docks to smuggle weapons.
- IRGC also owns large oil tankers and has intensive activities in this area. These tankers are also hired by other countries including neighbouring Gulf states and Venezuela.
- IRGC has set up a number of front companies to dispatch arms and caches to regime’s proxies via these docks.
- Subsequent to Yemeni docks being closed to Iranian ships, IRGC’s companies have begun using the ports in Oman to smuggle weapons to Yemen. Three ports there are being used primarily for this purpose: Soltan Qaboos Port in Muscat, Sohar Port in North Oman and Salalah Port in South Oman.
- Three companies have being used by IRGC for arms exporting to countries in the region:
A. Admiral Group shipping company
This IRGC company started its activities in 2012 and it is owned by Ali Shamkhani’s sons.
Shamkhani is the former Commander of the IRGC Naval Force and former Minister of Defense, and he is currently Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council.
Hossein and Hassan Shamkhani are the main directors of the Admiral Group. The company has offices in Tehran and Dubai. Hassan represents the company in Dubai and Hossein is based in Tehran. The company has been operating in the Gulf region and it is now expanding its activities to the Indian Subcontinent and Far East. It started with only one vessel and within five years the number went up to nine.
This company has been specifically engaged in the dispatch of arms to Yemen. After closure of direct sea routs to Yemen in 2015, the company had to dispatch its consignments to Sohar Port in the north and other docks in Oman to unload. Arms were subsequently transferred to Yemen by crossing land borders. Some of the arms dispatched included AK47 machine guns, RPG rocket launches, explosives, caches and mines.
This company has four subdivisions including Admiral Feeders.
B. Hafez Darya Arya shipping company:
This company is also one the shipping companies used by the IRGC. The container transport of several IRGC companies has been relegated to this company. The company’s fleet has 29 vessels for transporting containers. It uses docks in Port Asalouyeh, Bandar Abbas, and Bushehr to cargo the goods that belong to the IRGC. It carries some container cargoes of Khatam-al-Anbiya Headquarters, the IRGC’s major engineering arm. Mr Keshavarz is the manager of the company and Capitan Gostari is the company’s head of operations, while Mr Tafzali is in charge of marketing.
This company carries cargoes to scores of countries in the region and the world including the UAE, Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. One of the ports that this company uses to carry the IRGC cargos, is Port Sohar, in northern Oman. The shipping company used to carry cargo to Port Hodeideh in Yemen, prior to the internationally enforced blockade.
C. Valfajr shipping company:
This shipping company is one of the most important companies affiliated to the IRGC. It was founded by the IRGC in 1986 and was named Valfajr8 after an IRGC operation during the Iran- Iraq war in 1985. The name was changed to simply Valfajr Shipping Company in 2003.
This company is affiliated to Khatam-al-Anbiya and carries the IRGC cargoes and consignments.
The manager of the company is Majid Sojdeh. The ships belong to this company transfer passengers, cargoes, containers, and IRGC personnel from the IRGC ports in Khuzestan, Bushehr, and Hormozgan provinces in Iran to all of the major ports in the Persian Gulf region including to Dubai, Manama, Muscat, Aden, and elsewhere in Yemen.
Valfajr Company is very active in transferring the IRGC consignments to Yemen through Muscat. During this process, the company’s vessels avoid carrying Iranian flag in order not to be identified or searched. Officially and publicly, this company has relegated all of its activities in transferring containers to Hafez Darya Arya shipping company, but has continued such activities on its own, in secret.
It is noteworthy that the specifications and types of ships and vessels of this company are identical to the IRGC vessels. Specifically, Hormoz 12 and Hormoz 14, and container vessels designated as Iran Hormoz 25, Iran Shalamcheh, and Iran Shahed are identical to the IRGC vessels, though only the name of the Valfajr Company has been placed on them.
Despite on its website the Valfajr Company states that it is affiliated to the organization of ports and shipping, in reality it is affiliated to Khatam-al-Anbiya Headquarters. Lotfollah Saeedi and Mansour Islami are among the managers of this company.
- Docks controlled by IRGC in southern Iran
The network of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) has been able to obtained information about dozens of the 90 ports that are under IRGC control throughout southern Iran:
A. Bostaneh port
This port is located in the central district of Bandar Lengeh (Hormozgan Province). The construction of this port began in 1987 and was finished in 2012. The IRGC uses this port for smuggling weapons and goods on small vessels.
B. Two docks in Abu Musa Island:
The IRGC has two docks on two sides of this island, the location of an IRGC tactical base called Abolfazl Abbas. IRGC marines and rangers of the Imam Sajad Brigade under the command of IRGC Brigadier Sadeq Amoie are in charge of protecting the island. Smuggling of weapons and goods is carried out under the supervision of Amoie.
C. Docks in Greater Tunb Island:
Greater Tunb Island is under the command of the Fifth naval zone of the IRGC. The IRGC has two docks on this island. Given the strategic significance of this island being located along the passageway for any vessels intending to enter or exit the Gulf, IRGC has devoted an independent brigade, Ansarol- Hojah to this island, under the command of Brigadier Mehdi Salimifar. The smuggled imports are carried out under the supervision of this brigade.
D. Dock in Lesser Tunb Island
The IRGC has a dock in this island that functions similarly to the IRGC dock in Greater Tunb, in regard to smuggling. This island is also is under the command of the IRGC Fifth naval zone and Ansarol- Hojah independent brigade.
E. Kaveh dock:
This dock is located in the northern section of Qeshm Island (in the Strait of Hormuz). Given the fact that the shore is very deep, it has the capacity to accept vessels with cargoes up to 100,000 tons. This dock is located 15 km away from Rajai Port, enabling quick transit between the two. This dock is one of the most important for illicit IRGC imports. The commander of Zolfaghar 112 naval brigade of Qeshm is IRGC Abolhossein Heydari.
F. Docks in Rajai Port:
This port is located in Hormozgan Province, near Bandar Abbas and has several docks. The IRGC uses a number of the docks in this port and they are among the most important docks that the IRGC uses for lucrative smuggling of oil and gasoline. This port is under the command of the First naval zone of the IRGC. Tidewater Middle East Company, one of the main marine service companies of the IRGC, uses this port for loading and transit of cargo.
G. Dock in Sirri Island
This island which is located in the Gulf is used by IRGC for oil and fuel smuggling.
H. Docks in Port Asalouyeh:
This port functions in relationship with the vast area of oil and gas fields of Asalouyeh and the special economic zone of Pars. The IRGC plays an important role in various sections of this port and several of the docks in this port are under the control of the IRGC. Brigadier Mansour Ravanka, the commander of the IRGC’s Fourth naval zone, and Colonel Mahmoud Daryani are the commanders of IRGC force, Khatam-al-Anbiya, in Asalouyeh.
I. Dock in Chahbahar Port:
This dock is located in north of Chahbahr Port (Southeast Iran, in Sistan and Baluchestn Province). The illicit imports for eastern provinces by the IRGC are carried out though this port.
J. Dock in Bandar Lengeh:
This port is in Hormozgan Province. A significant amount of smuggling by the IRGC, including importation of black market iPhones, is carried out via this dock.
K. Dock in Bahonar Port:
This port is located in Hormozgan Province and is one of the eight major ports of Iran. Part of this port is under the control of the State Security Forces and part of it is under the control of the IRGC Navy. A number of IRGC tactical and combat vessels are based in this port.
L. Dock in Shirino Port:
This port is located in the vicinity of the town of Kangan in Bushehr Province. One of the docks controlled by the IRGC is located at this port.
M. Dock in Kangan Port:
Kangan Port is located in Bushehr Province. The IRGC uses this dock to smuggle luxurious cars including Porsche and Benz.
N. Dock in Faror Island:
This island is the training location and place of deployment of the IRGC special naval unit. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei ordered the IRGC to establish this unit in 2007. This island is located 27 km from Bestaneh Port and 57 km from Qeshm Island. The fact that two international waterways pass from the south and north of this island makes it strategically important.
O. Farsi Island:
Farsi Island is located 100 km from Iran’s mainland, southwest of Kharg Island. In addition to its proximity to oil and gas resources, this island is a military base. The 10 American sailors who were detained by Iran on Jan 12, 2016, were arrested by the IRGC near Farsi Island.
- Headquarters of IRGC Navy, in charge of controlling docks and ports in southern Iran:
The IRGC Navy maintains control and management of docks and ports in southern Iran by designating five command headquarters in the area.
A. First Naval Zone, Sahebol Zaman, located in Bandar Abbas:
IRGC Brigadier General Morteza Zarei and his deputy, Brigadier Ali Gholamshahi are the commanders of this zone. It is considered one of the most important naval zones of the IRGC. It is in charge of the area covering the Strait of Hormoz, Bandar Abbas, and Qeshm Island. Heavy equipment of the IRGC Navy is stationed there.
B. Second Naval Zone, Nooh Nabi, located in Bushehr:
Brigadier Ali Razmjoo is commander of this zone. Naval Rangers Brigade 124 of Hazrat Amir, commanded by IRGC Colonel Amir Doaei, are among the forces under the command of this naval zone. The forces of this brigade were involved in taking 10 American sailors into custody in 2016. This brigade is in charge of protecting Bushehr Port.
C. Third Naval Zone, Imam Hossein, located in Mahshar:
Brigadier Yadollah Badin is the commander of the Third Naval Zone that includes Khoozestan area such as Abadan and Mahshar. The command headquarters of this section is located in the central part of the city in the area between old Mahshar and the industrial zone. This garrison is the headquarters of Arvand Naval base. It is the base that took British sailors into custody in 2007. Arvand Naval base is in charge of the strategic marine border triangle of Iran-Iraq- Kuwait. The presence of this base has facilitated illicit transfers of goods, such as fuel, without any supervision. A brigade of Marines are stationed in this base.
D. Fourth Naval Zone, Sarollah, located in Asaluyeh:
Brigadier Mansour Ravankar, a veteran member of the IRGC, is the commander of this zone. Given the prominence of this zone as an economic powerhouse in the fields of oil and gas, this zone is very important for the IRGC. South Pars is the area of protection for this zone.
E. Fifth Naval Zone, Mohammad Bagher, located in Bandar Lengeh:
Brigadier Ali Ozmaie and his deputy Colonel Mohammad Najafi are the commanders of this zone. The area of this zone is from the end point of Qeshm Island to Nazeat Islands to the West of Kish Island. Nazeat Islands include Abu Musa Island, Greater Tunb Island, Lesser Tunb Island, and Faror Island. The independent brigade of Ansarol- Hojah, which is under the command of this zone, is considered one of the active units of the IRGC Navy. This brigade is in charge of controlling the two strategic islands of Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb.