US to designate elite Iranian force as terrorist organization

Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps is expected to designated as a terrorist organization. (AFP)
Updated 06 April 2019

US to designate elite Iranian force as terrorist organization

  • The decision is expected to be announced by the State Department, perhaps as early as Monday
  • In response, Iran said it may put the US military on its terror list

WASHINGTON: The United States is expected to designate Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards Corps a foreign terrorist organization, three US officials told Reuters, marking the first time Washington has formally labeled another country’s military a terrorist group.
The decision, which critics warn could open US military and intelligence officials to similar actions by unfriendly governments abroad, is expected to be announced by the US State Department, perhaps as early as Monday, the officials said. It has been rumored for years.
The Pentagon declined to comment and referred queries to the State Department. The State Department and White House also declined to comment.

In response, Iran said it may put the US military on its terror list if Washington designates the Iranian elite Revolutionary Guards as terrorists, a senior Iranian lawmaker said on Saturday.

"If the Revolutionary Guards are placed on America's list of terrorist groups, we will put that country's military on the terror blacklist next to Daesh," Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, head of parliament's national security committee, said on Twitter.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a strident Iran hawk, has advocated for the change in US policy as part of the Trump administration’s tough posture toward Tehran.
The announcement would come ahead of the first anniversary of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran and to reimpose sanctions that had crippled Iran’s economy.
The administration’s decision to make the designation was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The United States has already blacklisted dozens of entities and people for affiliations with the IRGC, but the organization as a whole is not.
In 2007, the US Treasury designated the IRGC’s Quds Force, its unit in charge of operations abroad, “for its support of terrorism,” and has described it as Iran’s “primary arm for executing its policy of supporting terrorist and insurgent groups.”
Iran has warned of a “crushing” response should the United States go ahead with the designation.
IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari warned in 2017 that if Trump went ahead with the move “then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American army to be like Islamic State all around the world.”
Such threats are particularly ominous for US forces in places such as Iraq, where Iran-aligned Shiite militia are located in close proximity to US troops.
Republican Senator Ben Sasse said the move would be an important step in America’s maximum pressure campaign against Tehran. “A formal designation and its consequences may be new, but these IRGC butchers have been terrorists for a long time,” Sasse said in a statement.
Former Under-Secretary of State and lead Iran negotiator, Wendy Sherman, said she worried about implications for US forces.
“One might even suggest, since it’s hard to see why this is in our interest, if the president isn’t looking for a basis for a conflict,” said Sherman, who is director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. “The IRGC is already fully sanctioned and this escalation absolutely endangers our troops in the region.”

IRGC’s reach
Set up after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to protect the Shiite clerical ruling system, the IRGC is Iran’s most powerful security organization. It has control over large sectors of the Iranian economy and has a huge influence in its political system.
The IRGC is in charge of Iran’s ballistic missiles and nuclear programs. Tehran has warned that it has missiles with a range of up to 2,000 km (1,242 miles), putting Israel and US military bases in the region within reach.
The IRGC has an estimated 125,000-strong military with army, navy and air units and answers to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
It is unclear what impact the US designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization might have on America’s activities in countries that have ties with Tehran, including in Iraq.
Baghdad has deep cultural and economic ties with Iran and Oman, where the United States recently clinched a strategic ports deal. 


’Sister protests’: Lebanon, Iraq look to each other

Updated 11 November 2019

’Sister protests’: Lebanon, Iraq look to each other

BEIRUT: A Lebanese flag flutters in the protest-hit Iraqi capital. More than 900 kilometers (500 miles) away, a revolutionary Iraqi chant rings out from a bustling protest square in Beirut.
“Don’t trust the rumors, they’re a group of thieves,” sings a group of Lebanese musicians in Iraqi dialect, referring to political leaders they deem incompetent and corrupt.
“The identity is Lebanese,” they continue, reworking the chant by Iraqi preacher Ali Yusef Al-Karbalai, made popular during the street movement there.
Such recent shows of solidarity have become a common feature of protest squares in the two countries, where corruption, unemployment and appalling public services have fueled unprecedented street movements demanding the ouster of an entire political class.
They serve to “shed light on similarities between the two movements and boost morale,” said Farah Qadour, a Lebanese oud musician.
“The two streets are observing and learning from each other,” said the 26-year-old who is part of the group that adopted Al-Karbalai’s chant.
In Lebanon’s southern city of Nabatiyeh, hundreds brandishing Lebanese flags chanted: “From Iraq to Beirut, one revolution that never dies.”
And in the northern city of Tripoli, dubbed the “bride” of Lebanon’s protest movement, a man standing on a podium waved a wooden pole bearing the flags of the two countries.
“From Lebanon to Iraq, our pain is one, our right is one, and victory is near,” read a sign raised during another protest, outside Beirut’s state-run electricity company.
In Tahrir Square, the beating heart of Baghdad’s month-old protest movement, demonstrators are selling Lebanese flags alongside Iraqi ones.
They have hung some on the abandoned Turkish restaurant, turned by Iraqi demonstrators into a protest control tower.
Banners reading “from Beirut to Baghdad, one revolution against the corrupt” could be seen throughout.
Lebanon and Iraq are ranked among the most corrupt countries in the region by anti-graft watchdog Transparency International, with Iraq listed as the 12th most corrupt in the world.
Public debt levels in both countries are relatively high, with the rate in Lebanon exceeding 150 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
“What’s happening on the streets in Iraq and Lebanon, they’re sister protests,” said Samah, a 28-year-old Lebanese demonstrator.
“They’re the result of an accumulation” of years of problems.
One video that went viral on social media networks showed a masked Iraqi protester dressed in military fatigues demanding the resignation of Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, one of the main targets of protesters in the small Mediterranean country.
In a video released online, a group of young Iraqi men had filmed themselves singing, “Lebanon, we’re with you!“
The two movements also seem to be adopting similar protest strategies.
In both countries, rows of parked vehicles have blocked traffic along main thoroughfares in recent weeks.
University-aged demonstrators wearing medical masks or eye goggles have occupied bridges and flyovers, refusing to believe pledges of reform from both governments.
The big difference is that in Iraq, the demonstrations have turned deadly, with more than 300 people, mostly protesters but also including security forces, killed since the movement started October 1.
Lebanon’s street movement, which started on October 17, has been largely incident-free despite scuffles with security forces and counter-demonstrators rallying in support of established parties.
The two movements, however, are united in their anger about the kind of political system that prioritizes power-sharing between sects over good governance.
The consecutive governments born out of this system have been prone to deadlock and have failed to meet popular demands for better living conditions.
“We are united by a sense of patriotic duty in confronting this sectarian political system,” said Obeida, a 29-year-old protester from Tripoli.
He said he had high hopes for Iraqi protesters because the sectarian power-sharing system there is relatively new, having emerged after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
“In Lebanon, it’s more entrenched,” he said of the arrangement that ended the country’s 1975-1990 civil war.
On a Beirut waterfront, dotted with luxury restaurants and cafes, a 70-year-old Iraqi man who has been living in Lebanon for five years looked on as demonstrators laid out picnic blankets on the grass.
With a Lebanese flag wrapped around his neck, Fawzi said the protests looked different but reminded him of those back home.
“The goal is one,” he said.