This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
Iranian leaders have condemned the decision by the United States to put Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on its foreign terrorist organization (FTO) list.
In a televised speech on April 9, President Hassan Rohani said Washington’s move was a “mistake” and asserted that the United States is the real “leader of global terrorism.”
“Who are you to label revolutionary institutions as terrorists?” Rohani said. He claimed that the United States wants “to use terrorist groups as tools against the nations of the region.”
His remarks came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the decision to place the IRGC on the State Department list of foreign terrorist organizations, the first time the United States has designated a state entity of another government as a terrorist organization.
The designation enters into force next week.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on April 9 that the United States had made “a vicious move,” adding that the IRGC was at the “front line of confronting [the] enemies” of the Islamic republic.
“In spite of all the pressure in the past 40 years, Americans have failed to do a damn thing and their vicious move will bear no fruit,” state-run TT quoted Khamenei as saying.
The estimated 100,000-strong IRGC is a branch of the military that also plays a major role in Iran’s economy.
The IRGC has been involved in enforcing Islamic codes and crushing dissent at home, experts say, while taking part in covert operations, arms smuggling, and other efforts aimed at expanding Iran’s influence abroad. It answers directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The United States has already blacklisted dozens of entities and people for affiliations with the IRGC, but not the organization as a whole.
In his statement on April 8, Trump said that Washington will continue to increase financial pressure and raise the costs on Iran “for its support of terrorist activity.”
Tehran responded by announcing hours later that its top security council has designated the United States a “state sponsor of terrorism” and U.S. forces in the region “terrorist groups.”
Iranian lawmakers chanted “Death to America” as parliament convened an open session on April 9.
Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani condemned the U.S. decision as the “climax of stupidity and ignorance.”
The Supreme National Security Council’s spokesman, Keivan Khosravi, said that going forward “any unusual move by American forces in the region will be perceived as the behavior [of] a terrorist group.” He did not elaborate.
The IRGC-affiliated Javan daily said that Iran will have the right to respond to any attack on the organization’s bases.
The hard-line Kayhan daily asserted that the U.S. decision means that Iranians now have “permission” to kill American military personnel.