Report: Trump mulls terror designation for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

To further pressure Iran, the US is considering designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.

By: World Israel News Staff

The US is debating whether to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist group as part of Washington’s efforts to increase pressure on Tehran, CNN reported Monday.

CNN quoted “senior current and former officials familiar with the matter” who said that the Trump administration is considering designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.

The IRGC is entrusted with Iran’s foreign espionage and sabotage activities and is a branch of Iran’s official military.

Such a move would enable the White House to freeze IRGC assets, impose travel bans on its leaders and levy criminal penalties, in addition to other economic sanctions already imposed by President Donald Trump

According to the report, officials have been debating the matter for several months and have yet to reach a consensus.

Those opposing the move, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, claim that such a designation could pose risks to US personnel and installations overseas, which would be targeted by the IRGC or Iran’s proxies in retaliation.

“The United States is trying to change malign behavior of the Iranians and deter their aggression,” Chris Costa, executive director of the Spy Museum and a recently retired special adviser to Trump on counterterrorism, told CNN. For that goal, “the special designation is a very important tool,” he said.

“There’s lots of things that are being discussed, things that will prove, we believe, very effective at the end goal, which is, at the end of the day, what matters,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN in an interview last month.

“The end goal is to convince the Islamic Republic of Iran to be a normal country,” Pompeo said. He declined to discuss specific plans for future sanctions and designations.

Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations, claimed that talk of the possible terrorist designation was in line with an American tendency to use terrorism for political aims.

“The US a long history politicizing the term ‘terrorism’ for its own political ends, which undermines others fighting terrorism,” Miryousefi said. “To associate the term with the IRGC is categorically preposterous, especially considering their central role in fighting terrorism in the Middle East, including ISIS and al Qaeda.”

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After announcing the US’ withdrawal from the nuclear deal in May, Trump leveled new sanctions against Iran, including one that would require all countries to eliminate Iranian oil imports by November.

Iran a ‘regional spoiler’

According to one former senior intelligence official, the debate about the IRGC has resurfaced many times over the years, often based on a specific incident or piece of intelligence.

The intelligence community will “tell [the administration] what might happen if you do this, what might happen if you don’t,” the official told CNN. “If we declare them terrorists and we put pressure on them, you do have a number of people who say, ‘what would that do to our forces in Iraq and Syria?'”

Iranian forces might retaliate and “ramp up anti-American activities in Iraq,” the official said. Iran could also call American Special Forces terrorists or threaten embassies, potentially endangering the long-term US presence in Iraq and Syria.

The IRGC “provides weapons, training for regional proxies, regional forces…. it focuses on terrorist groups, including Lebanese Hezbollah, the Houthis,” Costa told CNN. “They’re a regional spoiler.”

In the meantime, officials have also suggested that a designation of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, while dramatic, would be largely symbolic because it is already considered a terrorist entity under a 9/11-era executive order signed by former President George W. Bush to block terrorist financing.

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In October, Trump authorized sanctions aimed at the IRGC under that order, calling the Revolutionary Guard “the Iranian Supreme Leader’s corrupt personal terror force and militia.” He urged US allies to follow suit and impose sanctions against Iran in order to target its support for terrorism. However, with a special foreign terrorist designation, the administration could impose a wider and more severe set of sanctions.