Stratfor reports that Iran's Revolutionary Guards are reaching further into the oil and gas economy:
Islamic Revolutionary Guards are set to enter the oil and gas sectors in a move that would increase their stake in the Islamic republic's economy, Gen. Abdolreza Abed, head of the Guards' economic operations, told Qatar's Shargh newspaper in a story reported June 27. Abed said the Revolutionary Guards had obtained the contract to develop phases 15 and 16 of the South Pars gas field. He added that the contract was worth $2.09 billion dollars. Several weeks ago, the Guards were awarded a $1.3 billion contract to construct a 570-mile pipeline between South Pars and southeastern Iran. Both South Pars projects were awarded after the usual tendering process was abandoned.
The last sentence is particularly interesting, I should think, to more experienced observers of Iran than I. The abandonment of "the usual tendering process" suggests a power play by the Revolutionary Guards to grab a larger proportion of that country's resources.
The militarization of essential natural resources is never a good sign for the long-term health of a nation. It was not good for Iran under the Shah, and it will not work for the Islamic Republic. The possible good news, however, is that it usually softens the military. Speculation Alert: If Iran's leading generals are concerning themselves with the making of money and the siphoning of their country's wealth for their personal benefit -- this is what the People's Liberation Army in China has come to, for example -- it will be tough to motivate them into an unnecessary war. Generals who hope to feather their own nests with profits from natural gas will not want to invite the American Air Force and Navy to bomb the production facilities into oblivion. The Revolutionary Guards might well develop a vested interest in opposing a foreign policy that could jeopardize their own creature comforts.
It may also be the Mullahs buying the loyalty of the military, making sure they are onsides with the theocracy and prepared to kill those fomenting domestic civil unrest.