Trump administration expected to designate Iran's IRGC as a terrorist group

Trump administration expected to designate Iran's IRGC as a terrorist group

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, both Iran hawks, championed the decision, but not all US officials were so supportive.

The US move was announced in a statement from President Donald Trump on Monday, stating that it "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".

"Thank you, my dear friend, U.S. President Donald Trump, for having made a decision to declare Iran's Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization", Netanyahu said in a statement a day ahead of Israeli elections in which he is seeking a fifth term.

The designation "makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC", Mr Trump said in an official White House statement.

"We will answer any action taken against this force with a reciprocal action", 255 Iranian lawmakers said in a letter over the weekend, according to Reuters.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had also earlier lambasted the USA for its hostile policies against the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and warned of Tehran's robust response if Washington labeled the IRGC as a terrorist group.

"At a time when the relation between the USA and Iran is becoming increasingly tense, the announcement may provide an excuse for Israel to launch military operations against Iran". While a number of military, engineering, and oil branches of the IRGC, as well as senior individual members, have already been blacklisted by the USA, the organization itself with over 120,000 serving members has avoided the rap until now. From conflicts in Syria and Lebanon to Yemen and Venezuela, Iran's proxy groups that fall under the purview of the IRGC are covertly involved in terrorist operations that escalate chaos in support of their broader agenda.

Iran's parliament has vowed to retaliate by passing an urgent bill putting American troops on its own terrorism blacklist, which already features the jihadist Islamic State group, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported. According to the Article 150 of the Constitution, IRGC is one of the powerful armed forces which has always stood by the Army forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Israel and Iran are arch-enemies in the Middle East.

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Tensions between Iran and the USA have escalated since the Trump administration's pullout of the internationally-accepted Iran nuclear pact.

Mr Zarif also criticised the USA decision on Twitter, saying it was done to support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of the parliamentary election on Tuesday.

The Pentagon declined to discuss what the USA military was doing to protect American troops from any retaliation by the IRGC or Iran-aligned militia in places like Iraq.

Israel has long seen Iran as its greatest foe, citing its leaders' hostile rhetoric, suspect nuclear program, development of long-range missiles, and support for anti-Israeli militant groups such as Hizballah.

Influential voices within the USA have long cautioned against such a move by Washington, warning about the fallout on United States military presence in the middle-east, but the Trump dispensation is so over the heels with Israel's hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it chose to ignore such advice.

This followed Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif requesting President Hassan Rouhani to place the US Central Command on Iran's list of terror groups.

Iran is unlikely to take this designation in stride.

"This designation ends the façade that the IRGC is part of a normal military", he said.