Washington, April 9 (IANS) US President Donald Trump on Monday announced his decision to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist group, the first time that Washington has taken such a drastic measure against the military forces of another country.
“This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognises the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” said Trump in a statement.
The Revolutionary Guard, created after the triumph of the 1979 Islamic Revolution to protect Iran’s then-new theocratic system, is the country’s most powerful military organization and controls large sectors of its economy, according to Efe.
In recent years, the US has imposed sanctions on dozens of entities and individuals affiliated with the Guard, but it had never directly punished that military body, a step that will result in travel restrictions and possible criminal charges for anyone who collaborates with the organisation.
The decision is the result of a strident debate within the Trump administration, where some officials at the Pentagon and the CIA warned that the measure could lead to reprisals against US troops in the Middle East, according to The Wall Street Journal report.
Mohamad Ali Jafari, the commander of the IRGC, warned on Sunday that Tehran would take “reciprocal measures” and that US troops “will lose their current status of ease and serenity” in the Middle East if Washington moved forward with its rumoured plan to sanction that force.
Trump acknowledged that his decision marks the “first time that the US has ever named a part of another government as a FTO (foreign terrorist organisation),” but he said it “underscores the fact that Iran’s actions are fundamentally different from those of other governments.”
“This action will significantly expand the scope and scale of our maximum pressure on the Iranian regime. It makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC. If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism,” Trump stated.
Shortly after the president issued his statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a press conference denounced the presumed involvement of the IRGC in the deaths of hundreds of US soldiers in the Middle East and said that “the blood of the 603 American soldiers” the US believes to have been killed by Iranian-sponsored groups during the Iraq War is on the IRGC’s hands.
Tehran responded quickly to the Trump administration move, as Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif called for US Central Command (CENTCOM) forces to be placed on the list of terrorist groups by the Islamic Republic.
In a letter directed to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Zarif proposed including US forces in the Middle East and western Asia on Iran’s list of terrorist groups.
Zarif based his call on “the law of dealing with human rights violations and US adventurous and terrorist acts in the region” that previously had been approved by the Iranian parliament.
Shortly after Zarif issued his call, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council did, in fact, designate the US troops deployed in the Middle East and western Asia to be a terrorist group.