Iran Threatens Tit-for-Tat
In a slightly surprising move, the United States is for the first time labeling the military of a foreign power as a terrorist organization. Possibly as early as today, the U.S. State Department may label Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization.
While the U.S. has frequently stated that Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, it was only a matter of time before it went after the IRGC since the Guards, as well as the Quds forces, are the major players in Iran’s support for terrorist organizations around the globe. They provide training, logistical support, and direction for Iran’s proxies. They have aided in assassinations, bombings, cyber warfare and have funded missile development in the Third World.
Last week, the State Department’s Brian Hook made an announcement that the Iranians were responsible for the deaths of 603 U.S. troops from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), rockets, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and small-arms and sniper attacks by Iranian-backed proxies.
However, critics of the administration believe that this opens the door for unfriendly governments to do the same to U.S. intelligence and military assets abroad.
Since he became the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has strongly advocated a change in labeling the IRGC as a terrorist organization. He stated, “the Islamic Republic of Iran is not a normal state” because “normal states do not support terrorism within their armed forces” like Iran does with the Revolutionary Guard.”
This expected move isn’t without precedent. Back in 2007, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the IRGC’s Quds Force, at that time the unit in charge of operations abroad, “for its support of terrorism,” and has described it as Iran’s “primary arm for executing its policy of supporting terrorist and insurgent groups.”
The Treasury Department began to move against the IRGC in 2017 when it labeled the Guards as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, which made it a target for the U.S. to combat Iran’s terrorism funding by targeting its financing and imposing more sanctions. In their statement at the time, Treasury said this:
“The IRGC has played a central role to Iran becoming the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror. Iran’s pursuit of power comes at the cost of regional stability, and Treasury will continue using its authorities to disrupt the IRGC’s destructive activities,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “We are designating the IRGC for providing support to the IRGC-QF, the key Iranian entity enabling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s relentless campaign of brutal violence against his own people, as well as the lethal activities of Hizballah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups. We urge the private sector to recognize that the IRGC permeates much of the Iranian economy, and those who transact with IRGC-controlled companies do so at great risk.”
Republican Senator Ted Cruz from Texas has been pushing for the IRGC to be designated a terrorist organization since 2015. When the Obama Administration entered into the nuclear deal, Cruz among other Republicans were against the deal, which the U.S. withdrew from last year. Cruz was outspoken about the revelation about the U.S. troops’ deaths as well.
“The Obama administration downplayed the scope and nature of these murders in the interest of promoting its diplomacy with Iran, including the Obama nuclear deal.”
Republican Senator Ben Sasse approved of this latest move to go against Tehran. “A formal designation and its consequences may be new, but these IRGC butchers have been terrorists for a long time,” Sasser released in a statement.
Back in 2017 as well, IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari warned that if Trump and the United States went ahead with the move “then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American army to be like Islamic State all around the world.”
Just on Saturday, the Iranians took to Twitter to utter a tit-for-tat designation. “If the Revolutionary Guards are placed on America’s list of terrorist groups, we will put that country’s military on the terror blacklist next to Daesh (Islamic State),” Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, head of parliament’s national security committee, said in a Twitter post.
Former Under-Secretary of State and lead Iran negotiator under the Obama administration, Wendy Sherman, said she worried about what this means for U.S. forces in the region and hinted that this may have been the rationale behind the move..
“One might even suggest, since it’s hard to see why this is in our interest, if the president isn’t looking for a basis for a conflict,” said Sherman, who is now the director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. “The IRGC is already fully sanctioned and this escalation absolutely endangers our troops in the region.”
What does that mean for U.S. troops abroad? Things could get more dangerous for U.S. troops in Iraq. Several of Iran’s proxies, Shi’ite militias are located in close proximity to U.S. forces. If they are taking Jafari’s comments to heart, then they may decide to test the water and try to attack U.S. troops there.
During the latest fighting in Iraq to rid the country of Islamic State fighters, a coalition of U.S. Special Operations troops and air assets, Shi’ite militias, and the IRGC have formed an unlikely, uneasy coalition in ridding Iraq of ISIS. The Iraqi military has done a good job of holding it together and keeping the IRGC and the U.S. apart and on target during this time.
This move may not result in open fighting, however, any kind of confrontation, open or non-confrontational will ultimately benefit ISIS and will undermine the efforts of the U.S. troops in the area. That in itself can be a more dangerous environment for them.
IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said on Sunday that if the U.S. takes such does make the announcement, its forces in western Asia “will lose peace and quiet”.
“If the U.S. takes this step and endangers our national security we will take reciprocal measures, based on the policies of the Islamic Republic,” Jafari said.
On Sunday, Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted the accusation that he believes the #NetanyahuFirsters of pulling Washington’s strings in the decision to designate IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.
“#NetanyahuFirsters who have long agitated for FTO designation of the IRGC fully understand its consequences for US forces in the region. In fact, they seek to drag the US into a quagmire on his behalf,” Zarif tweeted. He added, “DonaldTrump should know better than to be conned into another US disaster.”
On Sunday, 255 out of 290 Iranian lawmakers have decided to take reciprocal action. “So the leaders of America, who themselves are the creators and supporters of terrorists in the (Middle East) region, will regret this inappropriate and idiotic action,” they said in a released statement.