Iran's Revolutionary Guards cash in after a year of suppressing dissent

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Iran's hardline Revolutionary Guards have been rewarded with multi-billion dollar business contracts as payback for helping to suppress the mass protests that convulsed the country a year ago.

In return for standing by him in the bloody crackdown that saw thousands arrested and up to 100 people killed, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has awarded a series of lucrative oil and gas deals to Guards-owned front companies.

The deal will hugely boost the power of the group, a paramilitary outfit that sees itself as the ultimate defenders of the country's Islamic revolution, and lessens the chances of any kind of compromise with Iran's reformist challengers.

It comes as the Iranian government flooded cities on Saturday with troops, police and plain-clothes security forces to prevent protests marking the June 12 anniversary of last year's disputed presidential elections, which sparked a summer of anti-governent street violence.

The country's main opposition leader, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, cancelled a planned demonstration after being refused official permission by the authorities, and other than a brief protest by a small group pro-Mousavi students at Tehran University, the anniversary passed largely unobserved....

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