European companies engaged in business with Iran are enriching the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and inadvertently fueling its military activities in the wider Middle East, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told CNBC on Sunday.
"We believe that a large percentage of the Iranian economy is controlled by the Revolutionary Guards and companies associated with the guards. And we believe that any dealings with those companies only serve to enrich the Revolutionary Guards and cause them to cause more mischief within the region and the world," Al-Jubeir said, referencing the billions of dollars' worth of deals struck between European companies and Iran since the lifting of international sanctions in 2015.
Tasked with defending the state and Iran's Islamic ideals, the powerful IRGC — the branch of Iran's military founded after the 1979 Islamic Revolution — is widely alleged to support militant activity by groups like Hezbollah around the region, from Iraq and Lebanon to Syria. It is also believed to control around a third of the country's economy.
The passing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015, which lifted international sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its nuclear development, saw a wave of new investment and business come into the country from Europe, led by Germany, France and the U.K. European multinationals Airbus, Siemens, Peugeot and Total have all struck major deals in the country worth billions.