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US blacklists IRGC, affiliates for terrorism

A powerful bipartisan sanctions bill, the Countering Adversarial Nations Through Sanctions Act, has been passed by the US Congress on Russia, North Korea and Iran. The bill is veto-proof because 419 voted in favor and only three against. Tehran and many leftist media outlets have tactically not drawn attention to the bill’s section on Iran. Instead, Russia has gained the media spotlight.

It is one of the most powerful US sanctions bills against Iran, and is a robust blow to it. The bill blacklists Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for its terrorist activities and destabilizing behavior, and for being a national security threat to the US and its allies.

More importantly, any individual or entity directly or indirectly linked to the IRGC or its affiliates is also blacklisted. In addition, any American person or entity doing do is subject to penalties for violating the law.

Financial systems, US citizens and entities should be very cautious because the IRGC is not one institution. It has thousands of affiliates in Iran and abroad, it owns thousands of companies, and it has significant control over Iran’s economy and wealth.

Tehran did not draw attention to the sanctions bill mainly because it is not in its economic or geopolitical interests to publicize that the most important and powerful institution in Iran, the IRGC, has been blacklisted. The news will be detrimental to Tehran’s increasing trade profit with Western companies, as it will make other nations hesitant to do business with Iran due to repercussions from the US.

Iran has long warned that if the US imposes sanctions on the IRGC, its military will respond immediately. But such threats are mainly rhetoric aimed at projecting power and discouraging sanctions on the IRGC.

Tehran did not draw attention to the sanctions bill mainly because it is not in its economic or geopolitical interests to publicize that the most important and powerful institution in Iran, the IRGC, has been blacklisted.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Iran cannot take direct military action against the US because it knows its army is far inferior, so any direct war with the US would be political suicide. As such, if Iran acknowledges and widely reports the bill, it will have to act on its threats, and since it cannot, it would be seen as weak. Nonetheless, Tehran continues to present a significant threat to the national security of the US and its allies.

The next step is to place the IRGC on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. To halt its support for terrorism, belligerence and destabilization of the region, other governments should impose similar sanctions. And Congress and US officials must impose sanctions on non-American individuals and entities that directly or indirectly deal with Tehran, the IRGC and its affiliates.

Before the nuclear deal, the US imposed such sanctions on European, Chinese and other entities dealing with Iran. Foreign individuals and entities must choose either to deal with the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism or with US companies.

They would choose the latter because the possibility of profits is higher. Such sanctions would be the most powerful blow to Iran’s regime, endangering its hold on power and pushing back on its terrorist activities and aggressive regional behavior. 

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. He can be reached on Twitter @Dr_Rafizadeh.