WASHINGTON, DC – On December 15, 2021, the US Representative Office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI-US) held a conference in Washington, DC. entitled “Policy Options to Counter the Rising Iranian Threat – First 100 Days of Ebrahim Raisi.” The NCRI-US’s latest book “IRAN: IRGC’s Rising Drone Threat; A Desperate Regime’s Ploy to Project Power, Incite War,” was presented by Alireza Jafarzadeh, Deputy Director of the NCRI-US, at the outset of the conference. The book is available in all major bookstores as well as on Apple Books.
The event’s speakers were Senator Joe Lieberman, former Democratic senator from Connecticut; Ambassador Robert Joseph, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security; Mr. David Shedd, former Acting Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs and Reform; Georgetown Professor Matthew Kroenig, Deputy Director, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, and Director, Global Strategy Initiative, The Atlantic Council; and Mr. Jonathan Ruhe, JINSA Director of Foreign Policy.
Mr. Alireza Jafarzadeh’s Remarks
Good day everyone. Welcome to our panel today. My name is Alireza Jafarzadeh and I am the deputy director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. We are joined by our audience here in Washington, but also our online audience all over the world. This event is live-streamed on our website on NCRIUS.org, on our social media platforms such as Twitter, as well as others who are also live-streaming the event.
Before I introduce our distinguished panel, I want to say a few words about why we are having this panel today. After a long wait, since June, a new round of talks finally started in Vienna last month, which so far has gone nowhere and is not expected to go anywhere. While so much attention has been consumed by the talks in Vienna, there are many other important aspects of Iran that we need to be focusing on, most importantly the internal situation, what the people of Iran are going thru and what they are calling for.
We now have Ebrahim Raisi at the helm. His selection, as someone whose track record of the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988 (90 percent belonging to the main Iranian opposition, the MEK), was supposed to frighten the population from continuing their protests; that hasn’t happened. We have had protests last month in Isfahan, and now teachers have been protesting for three days in 114 cities across Iran.
And you have other aspects of the rogue behavior of the Iranian regime, namely its terrorism, export of extremism, its missile, and now UAV programs. So, our panel is going to speak to those and suggest a policy that would address all of these troubling aspects of the Iranian regime.
We are also releasing our new report today, IRGC’s Rising Drone Threat; A desperate regime’s ploy to project power, incite war. I want to take just a few minutes and highlight just one aspect of the report. We have copies of them available for the journalists.
On October 6, 2021, we had a press conference in Washington and revealed various aspects of the UAV program run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force. We disclosed eight industries involved in manufacturing the UAVs and seven UAV utilization centers all over the country. We also talked about Dastvareh Garrison in Tehran, which is the headquarters of the Aerospace Force of the Revolutionary Guards. We showed the organizational structure of the IRGC Aerospace Force and that the IRGC Aerospace Force now has five forces, one of them the UAV Command. And we talked about Saeed Aghajani, the commander of the UAV Command of the IRGC, the role he plays, and where he’s stationed. He’s actually at the Dastvareh Garrison, which is the headquarters of both the Aerospace Force and also the UAV Command.
And then three weeks later, on October 29, 2021, the Treasury Department designated a number of individuals and entities in connection with the UAV program of the regime, among them, it said, “OFAC is also designating Saeed Aghajani, the commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force (IRGC ASF) UAV Command.” He was designated under executive order E.O. 13224, that’s terrorism. And then later, on November 30th, Congress got involved and very quickly passed in the House Foreign Affairs Committee a very bipartisan resolution, H.R.6089, “Stop Iranian Drones Act,” introduced by Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX) and supported by Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY). And it was almost unanimously passed in the HFAC and it is now before the full floor.
So, the reason I mention that is the significance of the information previously revealed, the attention it generated in Washington, and also to highlight why it’s so important to focus on what we’re revealing today. We’re revealing for the first time the IRGC front companies that are used for the UAV program. These are the network of companies with civilian titles. They’re very benign-looking companies, but in fact, they are at the service of the Revolutionary Guards to circumvent sanctions for the purposes of procuring parts, materiel, and accessories for their UAV program.
One of them is what they call the Iranian Aviation Space Industries Association. In reality, its core consists of individuals with close ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who use these front companies, civil-looking companies, to do what the IRGC itself cannot do. And we have elaborated on that, and how they’re actually helping the IRGC to circumvent sanctions and purchase accessories. It’s really a smuggling ring for the regime. But when you go on their websites, you don’t see any of those signs, but in fact, that’s what they are doing.
I’ll give you just two examples. One, for instance, is Hamed Saeedi. He is a director of one of those 15 companies that we are revealing today. It’s called Farnas Pasargad. In this picture, he is showing the UAV navigation system to the regime’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. He has done joint projects with the IRGC. He was involved in building spy drones. He chaired the board of directors of the Iranian Aviation Space Industries Association Working Group, which is an important part of that Association. He’s very close to Saeed Aghajani, who was just designated a terrorist by the Treasury Department. He’s also associated with the Quds Air Industries, which is the main body within the regime involved in producing UAVs.
The next person is Masoud Ghasemi. He wears different hats. In the picture on the right, you see that airplane in the background. On the left is the Chamber of Commerce of Alborz Province. He actually uses some of those elements to help the regime. He’s a member of the board of directors of the Iranian Aviation Space Industries Association. He previously chaired that board of directors. He’s the nephew of an IRGC brigadier general, Saeed Ghasemi, one of the hardcore Revolutionary Guard commanders who makes headlines in news in the Iranian media like every other week. Masoud Ghasemi uses the Alborz Province Chamber of Commerce to circumvent sanctions.
So, below is a list of 15 companies, and I don’t want to go over all of the information here. All of the information is actually listed in this report that we’re revealing today.
- Iranian Aviation & Space Industries Association
- Iranian Aviation & Space Industries UAV Working Group
- Iranian Research Organization for Science and Technology (IROST)
- Iraavin Innovation and Acceleration Center (Hamed Saeedi, is one of the main managers of this center as well, and this company has close ties with the Ministry of Defense)
- Farnas Pasargad Aerospace Industries Company (Hamed Saeedi is the CEO of this company)
- Bal Gostar Negah Asemanha Technology (Manufactures UAV parts in cooperation with the regime’s military aerospace industry)
- Kharazmi Electronics Industries
- Iran Bekr Part Khavar Mianeh
- Sahfa Production-Distribution Cooperative Company – Iranian Aerospace Industries (one of the subsets of the Iranian Aviation & Space Industries Association)
Aras Tech Aircraft Maintenance Services Company
Maham Pergas Technology (The chairman of the board of directors is IRGC General (pilot) Mohammad Norouzi)
- Hezareh Sevvom Industrial Alloy Development Company (The company supplies metals and other materials for the Ministry of Defense and the Atomic Energy Organization)
- Nazari Titanium Company (Controlled by two brothers, Mehdi and Bahman Nazari, the company works on behalf of the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Oil, the Atomic Energy Organization, among others, procuring and supplying embargoed items by circumventing sanctions using interest and mafia networks inside and outside the country. It has offices in Turkey, UAE, and Hong Kong)
- Sara Safe Tools
- Noandishan Composite Structures Industrial-Production
What we can conclude from this is that since Raisi took office, the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards has intensified its activities, including its UAV attacks. And they’re spending billions of dollars on UAV and missiles programs, while 80% of the Iranian population lives below the poverty line. So that’s why we need to deal with firmness with this regime. No sanction relief should be allowed. Congress should impose additional sanctions to include the entire UAV program of the Iranian regime including all its front companies used for this purpose.
What I want to close with is the fact that this regime in reality is much weaker than it was in 2015. But they want to project power and cover their weakness.
This regime is in big trouble domestically. Inside Iran, the protests of 2017 have continued. Nothing has stopped the protests, neither COVID-19 nor the ascension of Ebrahim Raisi at the helm as the new president for the Iranian regime. In fact, since Raisi has taken over, people have more reasons to want to protest. And every issue they deal with, whether it’s water, electricity, the environment, the wages, the situation of the teachers, the farmers, they see in front of them, their counterpart of these protests is the regime itself. There’s no third party. Whether it’s the Supreme Leader, whether it’s the IRGC, or all of those institutions associated with them. Where did the water go? It was the IRGC that was benefiting from it for its industries. The one thing that people have to keep in mind is that this regime is weak, it’s vulnerable, is rejected by the majority of its own population.
Now, I have three specific suggestions:
First, the Biden administration should make democracy and human rights a central element of its policy regarding Iran. And this shouldn’t be difficult. And it’s very practical, specific steps can easily be taken, that also corroborate with the stated principles of the United States. This way they can stand on the side of the people of Iran instead of trying to find a way of dealing with the repressive rulers and giving them some kind of legitimacy.
Second, holding Ebrahim Raisi to account. There is a new factor that is Ebrahim Raisi, and he needs to be held accountable, for crimes against humanity and for genocide. There are specific actions that can be taken. The Magnitsky Act and there are other ways that this could be pursued. But it should become a priority for the Biden Administration to hold Ebrahim Raisi accountable.
And third, it should declare that the nuclear game is over. The Iranian regime has been in serious violation of the nuclear agreement which they worked out in 2015. In reality, the Iranian regime has been in violation since day one, because all the new evidence shows that they had at least three sites where they had introduced nuclear material that they never declared back in 2015. So the regime was in violation then. And the Iranian regime has continued to be in violation. Why would anyone waste any time, which would allow the regime to get closer to building the Bomb? All of the UN Security Council resolutions need to be reinstated, period. And that’s the way to deal with the Ayatollahs.
And obviously, the real responsibility is on the shoulder of the people of Iran and the organized resistance to bring about a fundamental change in Iran. And that is the solution that will end all the problems associated with the Iranian regime, including its nuclear weapons program, its missile program, its regional intransigence, and also repression inside the country. Thank you so much.