Escalation Alert: After Sanctions by US on the IRGC, Flash Point in Persian Gulf Raises Concerns
On 8 April U.S. President Donald Trump designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” [FTO]
The leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei called the decision by the United States to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) a “foreign terrorist organisation” due to the traditional hostility between the two countries. “The IRGC is the vanguard both on the field confronting the enemy on the [Iranian] borders and even several thousand kilometers away… [in Syria] and on the political battleground facing the enemy,” the Leader said, adding that the Americans hold a grudge against the force because of that reason as per a report in the Tehran Times.
President Hassan Rouhani said that the U.S. mistake in designating the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organisation will make Iranians more united and the IRGC “more popular”. America has used terrorists as a tool in the region while the Guards have fought against them from Iraq to Syria,” Rouhani asserted. “By labelling the Guards as terrorist,” Rouhani added, “America wants to compensate for its defeats at the hands of Iranians.”
President Rouhani who spoke to French President Macron on the telephone on 9 April stated that Iran will act in the interest of stability in the region and prevent escalation of tensions. He also highlighted that if not for the IRGC, Syria and Iraq who have been under the control of Islamic State.
In a tweet, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the decision against the IRGC is an “election-eve gift” to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In a tit for tat reaction, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) immediately declared the U.S. as ‘state sponsor of terrorism’ and American forces in the region that is Central Command as, ‘terrorist groups’. The Chief of General Staff of Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri said “we consider the US troops in West Asia as terrorists and if they do a damn thing, we will confront them vigorously,” as per the Iranian media.
Technically the IRGC falls under General Bagheri, but in fact, the 150,000-strong military which has separate ground forces, navy, and air units and is in charge of the country’s ballistic missiles and nuclear programs is accountable only to the Supreme Authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iranian lawmakers on 09 April wore the uniform of the IRGC to the parliament, thus indicating not only support to the organisation but also symbolically willingness to be sanctioned by the US.
IRGC’s Quds Force is led by Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani which coordinates with several Shiite militias such as the Lebanese Hezbollah or organises these into units to fight in its area of interest such as Syria.
The Quds Force has been designated as a supporter of terrorism by the US way back in2007, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also have similar designations. The IRGC has also been designated similarly.
On the US sanctions, Stratfor Report states, “The United States maintains four different kinds of “terrorist lists” it can use to target different individuals, groups and countries. It designated Iran a state sponsor of terrorism in 1984. In 2007, it labeled the Quds Force of the IRGC, which handles overseas IRGC operations, a specially designated global terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order 13224. And in 2017, it designated the IRGC itself an SDGT under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act”.
In Iraq, the IRGC raised Popular Mobilization Forces to have an active role in supporting or acting as spoilers of the government
Thus it is felt that the real target of the IRGC sanctions could be Iraq which will have to cutback relations with the Force as well as a large number of entities both military and business that it controls.
Globally businesses will also face a similar risk as the IRGC has a hand in every Iranian enterprise thus there is the threat of sanctions that will loom large with the wide arms of the US Treasury establishment in tracing the group’s activities.
Importantly the US campaign of “maximum pressure,” portends further squeeze on the Iranian oil exports.