Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday warned Donald Trump that his decision to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terror organization was a “mistake” and will only serve to make the elite fighting group even more popular.
Rouhani, in a speech to mark Iran's national nuclear technology day, added that the unprecedented decision taken by the White House on Monday would undermine U.S. interests in the region, labeling Washington as a “leader of world terrorism.”
“This mistake will unite Iranians, and the Guards will grow more popular in Iran,” Rouhani said. “America has used terrorists as a tool in the region while the Guards have fought against them from Iraq to Syria.”
In a show of support for the Revolutionary Guard, all Iranian lawmakers showed up in Parliament on Tuesday wearing the IRGC uniform, while one national newspaper declared “I’m also a Guard” in a headline on its front page.
Trump issued the unprecedented designation, led by the Department of State, saying 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.”
Within hours of the U.S. designating the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, Tehran hit back by labeling the U.S. government a “state sponsor of terrorism” and designated U.S. Central Command a “terrorist organization.”
The decision by the White House to has led some experts to suggest it could lead to renewed violence in the region, putting U.S. troops in danger of renewed attacks by the IRGC.
While Iran hawks like National Security AdviserJohn Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both cheered Trump’s decision, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford was reportedly concerned about the safety of troops in the region, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Revolutionary Guard emerged in 1979 with the advent of the Islamic Republic, as a military force parallel to the country’s army — whose loyalty was in question. Over the last four decades, the Guard has grown to wield unparalleled power in all aspects of Iranian society with up to 10 million members.
But Iran’s adversaries — chiefly the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia — view the IRGC as a tool used by Tehran to destabilize the region. The U.S. blames the fighters for the deaths of 260 Americans who died in separate bombings in Beirut in 1983 and 1984.
“This action will significantly expand the scope and scale of our maximum pressure on the Iranian regime,” Trump said. ”It makes crystal-clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC. If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.”
The move will be welcomed in many parts of the Middle East where the IRGC is seen as a destabilizing force. In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who is seeking re-election Tuesday — claimed credit for Trump’s decision, thanking the U.S. president for “acceding to another one of my important requests.”
The designation will give the U.S. administration greater ability to punish Iranian businesses, given how deeply ingrained the IRGC is in almost all aspects of the country’s economy.
But a number of experts have suggested that the real reason behind designating the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization is to prevent the Democrats rejoining the Iran nuclear deal.
Cover: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during the inauguration ceremony of four projects at the South Pars gas field on the northern coast of the Persian Gulf, in Asaluyeh, Iran, Sunday, March 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)