White House weighs designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2017, 12:35pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2017, 12:35pm

US President Donald Trump’s administration is considering a proposal that could lead to potentially designating Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation, according to US officials familiar with the matter.

The officials said several US government agencies have been consulted about such a proposal, which if implemented would add to measures the United States has already imposed on individuals and entities linked to the IRGC.

The IRGC is by far Iran’s most powerful security entity, which also has control over large stakes in Iran’s economy and huge influence in its political system.

Reuters has not seen a copy of the proposal, which could come in the form of an executive order directing the State Department to consider designating the IRGC as a terrorist group. It is unclear whether Trump would sign such an order.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Iran denies any involvement in terrorism.

Several draft orders on other topics have been circulated among US agencies, only to be rejected or postponed by the Trump administration. It was reported last week that officials were debating whether to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation, but that decision appears to have been indefinitely postponed.

Naming Iran’s single most powerful military and political institution as a terrorist group could have potentially destabilising effects, including further inflaming regional conflicts in which the United States and regional arch-rivals blame Iran for interference. Iran denies those allegations.

It would also likely complicate the US fight against Islamic State in Iraq, where Shi’ite militias backed by Iran and advised by IRGC fighters are battling the Sunni jihadist group.

Some of Trump’s more hawkish advisors in the White House have been urging him to increase sanctions on Iran since his administration began to take shape. After tightening sanctions against Iran last week in response to a ballistic missile test, White House officials said the measures were an “initial” step.

US Gulf allies have long favoured a tougher US stance against Iran, whom they blame for regional interference.

The US has already blacklisted dozens of entities and people for affiliations with the IRGC.

But sanctioning the entire IRGC could backfire, a senior US official warned. It could strengthen Iranian hardliners and undercut more moderate leaders such as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and encourage Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria to curtail any action against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and perhaps even sponsor actions against US-backed or even American forces battling Islamic State in Iraq.

The Revolutionary Guards answer to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose power far surpasses that of Rouhani.