05 August 2011

Former Iranian Guard commander to become OPEC boss

Now this is interesting. Brigadier General Rostam Ghasemi, a senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, has been approved by Iran's parliament as the country's next oil minister. This automatically makes him head of OPEC as Iran assumed the presidency of OPEC last October.

The general presents certain problems. He is subject to sanctions by both the U.S. and the European Union. The sanctions bar him from traveling in the EU, making it awkward for him to attend OPEC's quarterly summits in Vienna.

Not that Ghasemi is without qualifications. He has an engineering degree and was head of the Khatam Anbia Troops, the Guard's engineering and construction company that had a major role in the re-construction of the country after the war with Iraq. He has considerable experience in oil and gas production. 

Despite his credentials and his approval by parliament, not all Iranians agree on the wisdom of the appointment. Ali Motahari, a prominent conservative MP who has in the past threatened to impeach Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, opposes involvement of the Revolutionary Guard in Iran's politics, telling parliament, "The integration of the Guard, as a military force, in political and economic power is not in the interests of the system. In neighboring countries, military officials are distancing themselves from politics and power, while it's the opposite in Iran." Motahari is recognizing the simple fact that allowing the military to become a vested economic and political interest is a recipe for military dictatorship and Iran is following that recipe.

In any case, there he is. How the Europeans and the Americans will react to having one of Ahmadinejad's hard line cabinet ministers as head of OPEC, an organization that plays a critical role in determining world oil prices, will be interesting. Take a good look at that handsome face. You may be seeing a lot more of it in the future.

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