(Persia Digest) - The Trump administration is designating Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corops as a foreign terrorist organization, taking an unprecedented step as it seems to increase pressure on Iran's regime. The move seems certain to bring a new level of tension between the two countries, as Iran's leaders have said they will retaliate in kind.
Iranian lawmakers have prepared legislation that would label the U.S. military as a terrorist group, according to Iran's state-run IRNA news agency.
President Trump announced the designation Monday morning, in a shift from the decades in which the U.S. has viewed Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism.
"This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft," Trump said, in a White House statement. "The IRGC is the Iranian government's primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign."
With the designation, anyone who deals with the IRGC could run the risk of facing criminal charges, such as aiding or supporting a terrorist group.
"If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism," Trump said.
It's the first time the U.S. has declared an element of a foreign government to be a terrorist organization, the Trump administration says.
The White House sees the IRGC as an "active and enthusiastic participant in acts of terror," a senior administration official said, in a background briefing that was held shortly before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was scheduled to discuss the announcement Monday morning.
Accusing Iran of using the IRGC to try to reshape the Middle East in its favor, another official said the group has amassed too much power and money — which he said it then uses to support attacks on Americans and U.S. assets.
"The Middle East cannot be more stable and peaceful without a weakened IRGC," the official said.
In recent months, the Trump administration has sought to impose "maximum pressure" on Iran's regime, after abandoning the nuclear deal brokered during the Obama administration. Even before news emerged of a possible terrorism designation for the Revolutionary Guard, more than 970 Iranian entities and individuals were already under U.S. sanctions.
But the administration is now taking the rare step of designating another country's military force as a terrorist group.
"In the past, part of the Guard Corps, known as the Quds Force, has been targeted by Washington," NPR's Peter Kenyon reports. "Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that President Trump 'should know better than to be conned into another U.S. disaster.' "
Zarif and other Iranian officials sharply criticized the U.S. plan over the weekend, after news emerged that an official U.S. announcement against the Revolutionary Guard was imminent.
Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, warned that if the U.S. labels his force as a terrorist group, the result would mean the IRGC could target the U.S. military the same way it currently targets ISIS.
"If (the Americans) make such a stupid move, the U.S. Army and American security forces stationed in West Asia [Middle East] will lose their current status of ease and serenity," Jafari said, according to the semi-official FARS News Agency.
"I do not think that the Americans will be that much out of their mind to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization," Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said, according to FARS.
The U.S. designation of the IRGC comes one day before Israel holds a national vote on the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Responding to news of the pending announcement, Zarif said Trump is granting a long-held request from Netanyahu.
When asked about the timing of the designation on Monday, senior administration officials said it had been in the works for months. They also said that in the past, there has been bipartisan support for declaring the IRGC a terrorist group.
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