Bonyads: Iran's Greatest Strength against Sanctions
Iran test-fired a new stealth weapon system over New Year's. Simultaneously, boasting to the world, Iran announced a breakthrough development -- its first nuclear fuel rod. Their rogue aggressiveness has many world leaders concerned. With U.S. elections soon to come, the issue of Iran must be heatedly debated.
One potential solution to the Iranian threat often bandied about is economic sanctions. However, right, wrong, or indifferent, sanctions are not the way to deal with Iran, as they will do very little to cripple the Ali Khamenei state. In fact, Iran can subvert sanctions via a very secretive economic program that few Westerners understand -- the Bonyads.
Virtually untouchable by international sanctions, Iranian Bonyads make up approximately 30% of Iran's GDP. Similar to non-profit organizations, Bonyads are tax-exempt charitable entities. Since they do not depend on the U.S. dollar, and since they are compartmentalized into dozens of smaller entities -- making it easy to transfer funds from one element to another completely undetected -- Bonyads make for an excellent way to subvert U.S. sanctions.
Comprising well over 120 corrupt semi-state tax-exempt monetary foundations, Bonyads have been in existence since Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's day. Originally used as a system of royal foundations for patronage and economic control, and to "keep the Shah in power," today's Bonyads assist in fueling world terror, enhanced military might, and promotion of propaganda and "comfort for the oppressed." Bonyads are more than complicated -- they are complex and deceptive, even to those operating within the International Monetary Fund.
Bonyads provide plenty of strategic and tactical advantages to anyone willing to do business with Iran. Not only does the Iranian Supreme Leader control the Bonyads, but allies in Venezuela and even Argentina and Brazil have been known to implement and adhere to Iranian Bonyad ventures. In Venezuela alone, there are at least ten manufacturing plants whose shareholding distribution is 49% Iranian businesses connected with Bonyads, leaving 51% within the Venezuelan state.
Tactically, Bonyads are often related to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC). Operatives from the IRGC along with members of Al-Quds and Hezbollah go undercover, portraying themselves as employees or officials of trading companies, banks, and cultural centers, or as representatives for the Foundation of the Oppressed and Dispossessed (Bonyad-e-Mostazafan), or the Martyrs Foundation.
How serious is Venezuela's Bonyad approach? Note the executive board members within their Banco Internacional de Desarrollo -- Rahim Faramarzi, Kourosh Parvizian, Reza Raei, Parvin Tavallaeizadeh, Samad Vafaee, Mohsen Bolhasani, Ssan Shokrian. Of note, all of these directors are Iranian. Their backgrounds make them out to be high-profile businessmen, but some are known either to have previously operated or to currently operate directly for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp.
If the United States intends on imposing sanctions on Iran, it will need to impose such sanctions on Venezuela as well, along with a handful of other nation-states and privately owned global banking industries. Needless to say, this won't happen -- and such a move would not be successful anyway, considering how the Bonyad systems work.
Bonyads are funded both actively and passively. Islamic almsgiving, known as Zakat, often flows into Bonyads. The mysterious Islamic Hawala system has been known to funnel money into established Bonyads as well.
Hawala, for its part, is an informal underground monetary transfer system. Think of Western Union on steroids, but without any oversight. Completed 100% on trust, Hawala involves money exchanges among multiple entities. Some players need money now, others loan the money, an intermediary handles the transactions, and interest is paid through monetary means or through goods and services. The system never ends because payments must be made to those in need and to those who loan.
Unfortunately, it took the United States and our Western allies years to learn about Zakat and Hawala systems. Hopefully, we have become astute in learning about the Bonyads since then, too. With the three financial systems in play, sanctions against Iran will serve little purpose.
Kerry Patton, a combat service disabled veteran, is a senior analyst for WIKISTRAT. He has worked in South America, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, focusing on intelligence and security and interviewing current and former terrorists, including members of the Taliban. He is the author of Sociocultural Intelligence: The New Discipline of Intelligence Studies and the children's book American Patriotism. You can follow him on Facebook.