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Iran says terrorist designation for IRGC would end ‘calm’ for US military in region

Mohammad Ali Jafari in funeral of General Qasem Soleimani's mother. (Hamed Malekpour/Tasnim News Agency)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iranian officials have responded angrily to U.S. media reports that the United States will soon designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.

IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari reacted to the reports on April 7 by declaring the U.S. military would lose the security it enjoys in the region if Washington carried through with the designation.

“With this stupidity, the American army and security forces will no longer have today’s calm in the West Asia region,” Jafari was quoted as saying by the IRGC-affiliated Fars news agency.

Earlier, Iranian deputies said they will take reciprocal action against the United States if Washington lists the IRGC as a terrorist group.

“We will answer any action taken against [the IRGC] with a reciprocal action,” said a statement signed by 255 of the 290 Iranian parliament members, the state news agency IRNA reported on April 7.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on April 7 that U.S. officials aiming to designate the IRGC as a terrorist group wanted to “drag the U.S. into a quagmire” on behalf of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“#NetanyahuFirsters who have long agitated for FTO [foreign terrorist organization] of the IRGC fully understand its consequences for US forces in the region. In fact, they seek to drag US into a quagmire on his behalf,” Zarif wrote on his Twitter account. “@realDonaldTrump should know better than to be conned into another US disaster.”

U.S. media are reporting that the United States will soon designate the IRGC a “foreign terrorist organization,” which would be the first time Washington has given that label to the military unit of another country.

The Wall Street Journal and Reuters, citing U.S. officials, reported on April 5 that Washington could add the IRGC to its Foreign Terrorist Organizations list as early as April 8. Such a move has been speculated upon for several years.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has promoted the change by Washington as part of a tougher stance toward Iran by the administration of President Donald Trump.

The United States has already blacklisted dozens of entities and people for affiliations with the IRGC, but the organization as a whole is not.

“So the leaders of America, who themselves are the creators and supporters of terrorists in the [Middle East] region, will regret this inappropriate and idiotic action,” the parliament deputies’ statement read.

IRGC commander Jafari also warned in 2017 that if the Trump administration designated the IRGC a terror group “then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American army to be like Islamic State all around the world.”

The IRGC — which has forces totaling some 100,000 personnel — was created after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to protect the Shi’ite system of clerical rule and is Iran’s most powerful security organization, controlling big portions of the Iranian economy while wielding strong political influence.

It also runs Tehran’s ballistic-missile program, according to the Congressional Research Service.