A powerful engineering conglomerate controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has said it is ready to begin construction of the world’s tallest dam, according to reports in the Iranian media on Wednesday.

The commander of the Khatam al-Anbiya (KAA) construction base, Abolghasem Mozaffari, said the firm was ready to construct the concrete dam on the Bakhtiari River in the Zagros mountains in Iran’s southwestern Lorestan Province.

According to Mozaffari, the variable- radius arch dam will be 315 meters tall and 434m. long.

Preparatory work has already begun, including the construction of external access roads, Mozzafiari said, according to Iran’s Fars News, which is closely affiliated with the IRGC.

The dam, first proposed in 1996, is primarily intended as a hydroelectric power plant supporting a 1,500 MW power station.

In 2011 Iran signed a $2 billion contract with the Chinese dam maker Sinohydro Corporation, which invests heavily in overseas projects. However, Iran’s state media reported in May that its Central Bank and a government committee were canceling the contract and turning the project over to the IRGC. The reports gave no reason for the cancellation, and Sinohydro said it had not been given any written notification.

The Chinese had been extremely keen to undertake the project, Mozaffari was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

KAA, a massive conglomerate with over 812 registered subsidiaries and responsible for billions of dollars of government contracts, is evidence of the IRGC’s considerable power over the country’s economy.

It was formed in 1989 after the Iran-Iraq War, when then-president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and newly-appointed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei encouraged the IRGC to help develop the country’s budget by getting involved in industrial production. It established a reconstruction headquarters, which later became known as Gharargah Sazandegi Khatam ol- Anbia, or Ghorb.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has strongly supported KAA, offering the conglomerate large, no-bid contracts – more recently in large oil and gas projects – since his election in 2005, and previously as Tehran’s mayor. In some projects, such as the South Pars gas field, KAA was awarded contracts previously held by Western oil companies forced to pull out of Iran due to sanctions.

Former KAA commander – and Iran’s current oil minister – IRGC Brig.-Gen. Rostam Ghasemi has boasted about the conglomerate’s power in the oil and gas industry.

“We were able to replace Shell and Total after they sanctioned us,” he said. Ghasemi himself is also targeted by international sanctions.

KAA was also heavily involved in building Iran’s underground uranium enrichment facility at Qom.

The IRGC-controlled conglomerate is subject to heavy EU and US sanctions. In 2010, the UN Security Council passed a resolution targeting it as an entity “controlled or acting on behalf of the IRGC,” and the US has accused it of channeling revenues into Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

In his Wednesday speech, Mozaffari said that since 1989 KAA had completed around 1,900 construction projects, and had also operated in other fields, including defense, passive defense, tunneling, pipeline installation, dam and bridge construction, roads and railways.

He added that Syria had requested that KAA work on construction projects there, but said that “current conditions” prevented the conglomerate from developing its presence there.

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