The malign actions of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force (IRGC-QF), which is responsible for military operations outside Iran, are sabotaging the Iranian economy, economists and international experts said.
The IRGC-QF's interference in the affairs of other nations has been a key factor in the imposition of US sanctions on Iranian entities and interests, they told Al-Mashareq, with the country's energy sector suffering the fallout of its actions.
Through its own actions, the IRGC-QF has turned Iran -- formerly a top-tier producer and exporter of energy -- into a mere consumer of petroleum products.
The oil industry, and the natural gas sector in particular, has the potential to revive the Iranian economy and improve the conditions its people now face.
"Under normal circumstances in the Gulf region and world, Qatar and Iran would be considered two of the leading global gas exporting countries," Qatari international affairs researcher Mahmoud Abdel Moneim told Al-Mashareq.
"In fact, if an alliance were to form between them, it would be a most powerful alliance that could wield significant influence in the international arena," he said.
But because of the unstable situation in the region, which can be attributed to the IRGC-QF's actions, "such an alliance will not see the light of day in the foreseeable future", he said.
Until it can be ascertained that Iran is no longer a constant security threat, no such scenario will be likely, Abdel Moneim said.
At present, he noted, Iran has been accelerating production at the gas field in the Arabian Gulf it shares with Qatar (North Field is in Qatari territorial waters and South Pars is in Iranian territorial waters).
But there still remains the issue of Iran’s limited export capacity, he said, noting the increased production is irrelevant in light of the sanctions imposed on Iran.
Thwarted economic ambitions
"Qatar and Iran share the North Field/South Pars gas field," Ain Shams University Economics professor Fakhreddine Awadallah told Al-Mashareq.
This is the largest gas field in the world and holds an estimated 51 trillion cubic metres of natural gas, he said.
"Iran has 29.6 trillion cubic metres of gas reserves, which accounts for 16% of the world’s total reserves," he noted. "This places it second in terms of global gas reserves, behind Russia."
Most of Iran's ambitions to tap its gas wealth have faded with the imposition of sanctions triggered by international outrage over the IRGC’s actions, he said.
"Its export capacity has been shackled and its production capacity is useless, save for domestic consumption," he said, pointing out that the sector’s hard-currency revenues are "near zero".
This is despite government promises of recovery after the signing of agreements with Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Turkey and some European countries, he added.
As a consequence of the actions of the IRGC-QF, Iran and the Iranian people have been deprived of billions of dollars that would have poured into Iranian coffers and revived the country's failing economy, Awadallah said.
Missed economic opportunity
"Iran missed the opportunity of joining the club of major energy producers and exporters by virtue of sitting atop one of the largest gas reserves in the world, because of the IRGC’s actions," banking expert Mahmoud Seif told Al-Mashareq.
Despite current tensions, international protocols dictate that under stable circumstances, Iran can be admitted to the producers' alliance, said Seif, who lectures at the faculty of economics of Egypt's Zagazig University.
But Iranian waywardness has deprived both the state and the people of the chance to benefit from this economic alliance, he said.
The Iranian economy has sustained significant setbacks because of the actions of the IRGC-QF, he added, suggesting that "they" ought to take steps that show "goodwill in order to correct the situation".
Preserving the status quo is a form of political and economic suicide "that would drop the Iranian people to the lowest levels of poverty and ruin the economy as a whole, as well as the balance of trade, which is at its lowest point", he said.
For the time being, he added, the only economic returns are those yielded by the smuggling operations to Iraq and Syria.
"The IRGC pays no mind to the economic situation in its country or the deteriorating conditions of its people," Seif said.
"All it cares about is to ensure the success of its expansionist projects at the expense of the security and stability of the region and its people."