Donald Trump, the US president, on Monday designated Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organisation, marking the first time the US has formally labelled another country’s military a terror group.
Iran warned it will take reciprocal action against Washington for its move against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the country’s most powerful security organisation.
In a statement, Mr Trump said the "unprecedented step" recognises that “the IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign”.
The designation “makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC,” Mr Trump said. “If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism."
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have risen since Mr Trump pulled out of the joint nuclear accord last year.
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 the Islamic republic. Mr Pompeo told a news conference the designation will take effect in one week.
Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, welcomed the move saying: “The terrorist designation of the repressive IRGC has been the enduring and righteous demand of the Iranian people and Resistance and an imperative for regional and global peace and security.”
However the move has been opposed by some military officials, and reportedly the CIA, who fear that the designation could incite violence against US forces in the region without having much of an impact on Iran’s economy.
Critics have also warned that the move could open US military and intelligence officials to similar actions by unfriendly governments.
After reports of the designation emerged late on Friday, Iran warned it would take reciprocal action.
“We will answer any action taken against this force with a reciprocal action,” a statement issued by 255 out of the 290 Iranian lawmakers said, according to IRNA.
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Set up after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to protect the Shi’ite clerical ruling system, the IRGC is Iran’s most powerful security organisation. It is in charge of Iran’s ballistic missiles and nuclear programmes. The group also holds sway over large sectors of the Iranian economy and has a huge influence in its political system.
The United States has already blacklisted dozens of entities and people for affiliations with the IRGC, but the organisation as a whole is not.
In 2007, the US Treasury designated the IRGC’s Quds Force, its 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."
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