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The appointment of an airline executive with an extensive military background to an influential position in the Iranian Parliament is giving the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps more clout in governing the country.

Hamid Aslani, chairman of the board of the Mahan Safir Mehr airline services firm and a long-time IRGC commander, was recently appointed to the position of  Majles executive deputy. Aslani’s new post puts him in charge of “planning and taking action within the framework of the legislative structure outlined by” Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Given responsibility for “organizing the bureaucratic and financial structure of the Majles,” he has wide-ranging authority, including “improving the quality of its infrastructure using new technologies and improving the use of human resources,” “financial discipline,” “Majles security,” “completing the Majles expansion project,” and “providing services to lawmakers.”

Over the course of his military career, Aslani served as deputy commander of the 31st Ashura Brigade (now 31st Ashura Division) operating in the provinces of East Azerbaijan, West Azerbaijan, and Ardabil, and the 38th Zulfaqar Armored Brigade, which operates in Kerman. He has held many other titles, including deputy coordinator—and later, head of planning—for IRGC ground forces, executive deputy of the IRGC Command, head of the Sacred Defense Documents and Research Center, vice chairman of the IRGC Retirees Institute (roughly equivalent to the US Veterans Administration), and member of the board of trustees of the Sacred Defense Military Hospitals.

Aslani’s appointment further cements the IRGC’s hold over the parliament, underscored by the election last year of Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf as Majles speaker. Qalibaf, whose military service dates back to the war with Iraq, headed  the IRGC’s Khatam al-Anbia Headquarters (1994–1997) and commanded the IRGC Air Force (1997–2000). Since the turn of the century, he has served as Tehran’s police chief (2000–2005)—the last six men to hold the position have all been Guard members—and then mayor (2005–2017). 

Qalibaf has maintained close ties with the Revolutionary Guards, often appointing his associates in the corps to positions of power within the institutions he has headed or by directing lucrative contracts under his purview to IRGC-owned entities. That tradition continues in his new parliamentary fiefdom.

Aslani, Soleimani, and the IRGC Business Network

Aslani is known for having even firmer ties with an even more prominent IRGC leader: Iranian media have described him as “one of Qasem Soleimani’s friends and close companions.” His name along with Soleimani’s appears on the board of an organization named Ayta Salehin, which was set up in Kerman, the late Quds Force commander’s hometown, for “charity and charitable work.”  

Aslani has held a variety of positions with Mahan Air, which has been sanctioned by the US Treasury since 2011 “for providing financial, material and technological support to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF).” He has been Mahan’s director of human resources and formerly served alongside Qasem Soleimani’s brother Sohrab on the board of a Mahan subsidiary called Pardis Parham Kish. Like other firms with close ties to Iran’s ruling elite, Pardis Parham Kish has a “pre-emption right” which grants it vast license to cherry-pick nominally competitive contracts and other business opportunities.

Mahan Safir Mehr Co., the Mahan subsidiary whose board Aslani currently chairs, transports flight crews to and from their airports, offers customs services, and has import-export and construction and rehabilitation operations.

Aslani has also been a board member of multiple entities controlled by the massive Sepah Cooperative Foundation (Bonyad Taavon Sepah, or BTS), the IRGC’s primary para-governmental foundation, under whose umbrella Khatam al-Anbia operates. Among the BTS subsidiary boards on which Aslani has served are those of Behsaz Bana Gostar Saman (now dissolved), an industrial equipment and technical installation firm, and Paravar Pars Co., which produces gyroplanes, powered hang gliders  as well as drones, according to its website. He was also a board member of Resalat Salehin Tehran Qardh al-Hasan Fund, which is one the three funds that in 2012 merged to create Resalat Bank.

✶ This post is also available in: فارسی (Persian)

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