By Arab News
US President Donald Trump on Monday declared the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iran a terrorist organization. It is the first time Washington has formally designated another country’s military a terrorist group, and comes into effect next Monday.
Trump said the “unprecedented” move “recognizes 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.”
“The IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign,” Trump said.
The move comes on top of Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of an international deal with Iran that was meant to lift crippling economic sanctions in return for the government allowing its nuclear technology to be restricted and kept under close supervision.
The Trump administration argues that Iran’s government, which is locked in a deeply hostile standoff with top US ally Israel, cannot be trusted and should face “maximum pressure.”
The US has already blacklisted dozens of organizations and individuals for affiliations with the IRGC, but not the organization as a whole. Those who do business with the Revolutionary Guards could now receive up to 20 years in prison and be barred from entering or doing business in the US. The new terrorist designation “makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC,” Trump said. “If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.”
The terrorist designation for the Revolutionary Guards is meant to strike at the heart of the Iranian government’s power structure.
The elite force was formed after the 1979 Islamic revolution with a mission to defend the clerical regime, in contrast to more traditional military units that protect borders.
At home, it has amassed strong political and economic influence.
Abroad, the Guards’ Quds Force supports Iranian allies, including Syrian President Bashar Assad and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
‘Racketeers, not revolutionaries’
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a strident critic of Iran, has pushed for the change in US policy as part of the Trump administration’s tough posture toward Tehran. The action had been debated for months as Washington sought additional ways to pressure Iran and curtail its growing influence in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Addressing reporters following Trump’s announcement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned all banks and business of consequences to dealing with the Revolutionary Guards from now on.
“The leaders of Iran are racketeers, not revolutionaries,” Pompeo said. “Businesses and banks around the world now have a clear duty to ensure that companies with which they conduct financial transactions are not conducted with the IRGC in any material way.”
“This designation is a direct response to an outlaw regime and should surprise no one,” Pompeo said.