Iran warns US against designating Guards a terrorist group

Members of the Iranian revolutionary guard march during a parade to commemorate the anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), in Tehran September 22, 2011. (File photo REUTERS)
Updated 08 October 2017
0

Iran warns US against designating Guards a terrorist group

BEIRUT/DUBAI: Iran warned the US against designating its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. (IRGC) as a terrorist group and said US regional military bases would be at risk if further sanctions were passed.
The warning came after the White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump would announce new US responses to Iran’s missile tests, support for “terrorism” and cyber operations as part of his new Iran strategy.
“As we’ve announced in the past, if America’s new law for sanctions is passed, this country will have to move their regional bases outside the 2,000 km range of Iran’s missiles,” IRGC Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said, according to state media.
Jafari also said that additional sanctions would end the chances for future dialogue with the US, according to state media, and issued a stark warning to American troops.
“If the news is correct about the stupidity of the American government in considering the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American Army to be like Daesh all around the world particularly in the Middle East,” Jafari said.
IRGC is Iran’s most powerful internal and external security force. The Quds Force, the IRGC’s foreign espionage and paramilitary wing, and individuals and entities associated with the IRGC are on the US list of foreign terrorist organizations, but the organization as a whole is not.
Iran sees Daesh as an existential threat to the Islamic Republic.
On June 7, Daesh claimed an attack on Tehran’s Parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, killing 18 people. The IRGC fired missiles at Daesh bases in Syria on June 18 in response.
IRGC commanders have framed their military involvement in Iraq and Syria, where they are fighting to support the regime of President Bashar Assad, as a fight against Daesh. Dozens of IRGC members, including senior commanders, have been killed in Syria and Iraq.
Missile program
The website for state TV reported Jafari as adding that the US was mistaken if it thought it could pressure Iran into negotiating on regional issues.
Jafari also said that Tehran would ramp up its defense capabilities, including its missile program, if the US undermined a nuclear deal between Iran and Western powers.
Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to limit its disputed nuclear program in return for the easing of economic sanctions.
However, Trump is expected to announce soon that he will decertify the deal, a senior administration official has said, in a step that potentially could cause the accord to unravel.
“The Americans should know that the Trump government’s stupid behavior with the nuclear deal will be used by the Islamic Republic as an opportunity to move ahead with its missile, regional and conventional defense program,” Jafari said, according to state media.
The prospect of Washington backtracking on the deal has worried some of the US allies that helped negotiate it, especially as the world grapples with another nuclear crisis in the shape of North Korea.
If Trump does not certify that Iran is in compliance, the US Congress will have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions waived under the deal. UN inspectors have verified Iranian compliance with the terms.
The Guards navy was also carrying out a military exercise on Sunday in the Gulf, an area of tension with the US navy in recent months.
More than 110 vessels were involved in the exercise, including some that have rocket and missile capabilities, a state media report quoted a Guards commander as saying.


Turkey, Russia discussing Idlib airspace control: Sources

Updated 22 min 28 sec ago
0

Turkey, Russia discussing Idlib airspace control: Sources

  • Turkey has set up observation posts in Idlib in a bid to prevent clashes between rebels and government forces
  • After a meeting on Sept. 17 between Putin and Erdogan, agreed to create a de-militarized zone in Idlib by Oct. 15

ANKARA: The partial transfer of control of the airspace over the de-escalation zone in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib from Moscow to Ankara is being discussed by the two sides, Russian sources said. 

The aim is to enable Turkey to conduct an aerial campaign against Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which Ankara recently designated a terrorist organization. 

A former Al-Qaeda affiliate, HTS is the strongest armed group in Idlib, the last stronghold of Syrian anti-government rebels. 

In February, HTS claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian warplane in Idlib using a surface-to-air missile.

Russia, Turkey and Iran are monitoring the de-escalation zone in the province as part of a trilateral agreement. 

Turkey has set up observation posts in Idlib in a bid to prevent clashes between rebels and government forces.

“Discussions are ongoing about the details of this transfer (of airspace control). I guess it will be limited to the buffer zone in Idlib for now,” Yury Barmin, an analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, told Arab News.

“If Russia is taking steps to allow Turkey to use Idlib’s airspace, it will give Turkey more room for maneuver in the region.”

But airstrikes by Ankara against HTS might create another refugee influx into Turkey, which already hosts more than 3 million Syrian refugees, Barmin said. 

Idlib is home to more than 1 million displaced Syrians, and its population exceeds 3 million. Turkey is concerned that the creation of a humanitarian crisis near its border would further swell its own refugee population. 

After a meeting on Sept. 17 between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the two countries agreed to create a de-militarized zone in Idlib by Oct. 15.

The deal requires that all radical groups, including HTS, withdraw from the area and that all heavy weapons be removed.

Russian and Turkish troops will conduct coordinated patrols to ensure that all armed groups respect the deal.

Emre Ersen, a Syria analyst at Marmara University in Istanbul, said a transfer of airspace control would mean that Ankara and Moscow are determined to implement their latest agreement regarding Idlib. 

“Until now, Idlib’s airspace has been fully controlled by Russia, which weakened Turkey’s hand in trying to convince rebel groups in the region to abandon their arms,” he told Arab News.

Transferring airspace control “would give Ankara additional diplomatic leverage in its dealings with HTS,” he said. 

“If Ankara fails to persuade HTS to comply with the Putin-Erdogan deal regarding Idlib, it’s almost certain that Russia and Syrian government forces will start a military operation in the region.”

So Turkey is sending a message to HTS that if carrots do not work, it has some sticks at its disposal, Ersen said.