U.S. Designates Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a Foreign Terrorist Organization
Decision marks first time an element of a foreign state has been officially designated terrorist entity
April 8, 2019
WASHINGTON—The Trump administration on Monday designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, escalating the U.S. pressure campaign against Tehran and marking the first time an element of a foreign state has been officially designated a terrorist entity.
“This action will significantly expand the scope and scale of our maximum pressure on the Iranian regime,” President Trump said in a statement Monday. “If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.”
The designation aims to squeeze the IRGC’s financial resources and shrink its military presence in the Middle East, helping the U.S. crack down on businesses in Europe and elsewhere controlled by the organization. The designation also allows the U.S. to subject IRGC officials and those who provide support the organization to travel restrictions and lets U.S. prosecutors bring charges against those who provide “material support” to the IRGC.
U.S. officials had been divided over the move, with White House national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in favor of it and Pentagon officials—including Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—cautioning against it out of concern for a backlash against U.S. forces in the region, according to U.S. officials.
Plans to designate the IRGC a terrorist organization, reported by The Wall Street Journal on Friday, have already escalated tensions between the two countries, with top Iranian officials threatening retaliation against U.S. forces in the Middle East in response to the plan.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the move would lead to disaster for U.S. forces in the Middle East and charged it was intended to benefit Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has a close relationship with the Trump administration.
The IRGC’s commander, Mohammad Ali Jafari, was quoted as saying by the IRGC’s official news outlet: “If the Americans do such stupidity and put our national security at risk, the U.S. Army and security forces in the West Asia region will not enjoy today’s peace.”
On Sunday, 255 out of 290 Iranian parliamentarians condemned the planned U.S. move and warned of repercussions.
“We will answer any action taken against this force with a reciprocal action,” they said, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. “So the leaders of America, who themselves are the creators and supporters of terrorists in the region, will regret this inappropriate and idiotic action.”
The IRGC has a ground force of 100,000 for national defense and runs Tehran’s ballistic missile programs, according to a study by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.
The Quds Force, a specialized division of the IRGC, has arranged weapons deliveries and advised pro-regime militias in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the region.
The Guard Corps has been involved in Iran’s nuclear program and has played a role in cracking down on dissent at home, while also playing an important role in the Iranian economy. As CIA director in 2017, Mr. Pompeo said companies overseen by the IRGC might control 20% of the nation’s economy, including important sectors like energy.