Indeed, listing the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, or IRGC, would be unprecedented and would constitute the biggest escalatory step by Washington against Tehran in years.
Is it time to target the Revo Guards?
There is reportedly plenty of pushback already from senior U.S. intelligence and defense officials against adding IRGC to the State Department’s terrorism list. Critics fear such a step would do more harm than good to U.S. interests. Yet irrespective of the decision to officially designate it or not, a review of the IRGC’s actions has its merits.
IRGC leadership seizes every opportunity to flaunt its anti-American ideological mission in words and in practice. It is explicit in its core aim of forcing the United States out of the Middle East.
For the sake of American interests in the region, the United States has no option but to first single out the IRGC before rolling back its noxious influence.
IRGC leadership seizes every opportunity to flaunt its anti-American ideological mission in words and in practice. It is explicit in its core aim of forcing the United States out of the Middle East. For the sake of American interests in the region, the United States has no option but to first single out the IRGC before rolling back its noxious influence.
At home, the Guard’s generals are the biggest obstacle to the demands of the mass reformist movement that has tried to bring about gradual political change. IRGC bosses regularly threaten reformist leaders with death. Meanwhile, the organization’s insatiable appetite for money has put it in control of about 20 percent of the Iranian economy. Its extortionist methods are so flagrant that even an ally, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, once referred to them as “our smuggler brothers.”
In other words, on key issues that matter most to the United States -- from Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs to its military interventions across the region -- it is the words and actions of the IRGC leadership that Washington needs to first consider as the Trump White House develops its Iran policy. And simply hinting at possibly listing the IRGC as a terrorist organization is an important step in the effort to influence the shadowy organization’s behavior.
The truth is that Iran’s moderates -- such as Foreign Minister Javad Zarif -- are not in charge of the policies that most concern the United States. Take the case of Iraq. Since 2003, all of Iran’s powerful ambassadors to Baghdad have come straight from the ranks of the IRGC’s Quds Force, led by the powerful and influential Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Meanwhile, the top brass at the IRGC continues to view the multiple conflicts in the Middle East as a zero-sum rivalry with the United States and her regional allies.
However, while it is true that anti-Americanism is a core part of the worldview of this close-knit group of men at the top of the IRGC leadership, they are far from suicidal. A more forceful U.S. stance against their policies is highly likely to shape their calculations.