‘The outlaw regime’: Trump officially declares Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization

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US says Middle East can not be stable until the IRGC are weakened. (AFP/file)
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressing the media after President Donald Trump designated Iran's Islamic Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. (Screenshot)
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Iranian Revolutionary Guard members participate in a parade celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, at the Azadi, or Freedom, Square, in Tehran. AP Photo/Vahid Salemi/file photo)
Updated 10 April 2019

‘The outlaw regime’: Trump officially declares Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization

  • Donald Trump says IRGC 'actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft'
  • US says Middle East can not be stable until the IRGC is weakened

WASHINGTON/JEDDAH: US President Donald Trump on Monday declared the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iran a terrorist organization. It is the first time Washington has formally designated another country’s military a terrorist group, and comes into effect next Monday.

Trump said the “unprecedented” move “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.”

“The IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign,” Trump said.

The move comes on top of Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of an international deal with Iran that was meant to lift crippling economic sanctions in return for the government allowing its nuclear technology to be restricted and kept under close supervision.

The Trump administration argues that Iran’s government, which is locked in a deeply hostile standoff with top US ally Israel, cannot be trusted and should face “maximum pressure.”

The US has already blacklisted dozens of organizations and individuals for affiliations with the IRGC, but not the organization as a whole. Those who do business with the Revolutionary Guards could now receive up to 20 years in prison and be barred from entering or doing business in the US. The new terrorist designation “makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC,” Trump said. “If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.”

The terrorist designation for the Revolutionary Guards is meant to strike at the heart of the Iranian government’s power structure.

The elite force was formed after the 1979 Islamic revolution with a mission to defend the clerical regime, in contrast to more traditional military units that protect borders.

At home, it has amassed strong political and economic influence.

Abroad, the Guards’ Quds Force supports Iranian allies, including Syrian President Bashar Assad and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.


'Racketeers, not revolutionaries'
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a strident critic of Iran, has pushed for the change in US policy as part of the Trump administration’s tough posture toward Tehran. The action had been debated for months as Washington sought additional ways to pressure Iran and curtail its growing influence in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Addressing reporters following Trump’s announcement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned all banks and business of consequences to dealing with the Revolutionary Guards from now on.

“The leaders of Iran are racketeers, not revolutionaries,” Pompeo said. “Businesses and banks around the world now have a clear duty to ensure that companies with which they conduct financial transactions are not conducted with the IRGC in any material way.”

“This designation is a direct response to an outlaw regime and should surprise no one,” Pompeo said.

 

'Historic decision'
The Iranian-American Harvard scholar Dr. Majid Rafizadeh said Trump’s decision was historic.

“This is one of the most critical and historic developments since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979,” he told Arab News.

“It has significant and serious legal, political and economic implications for dealings with the Islamic Republic and the IRGC. “The IRGC is the backbone of the clerical establishment in Iran. It controls significant sections of Iran’s economic and ideological centers.

” Iran condemned the decision as an illegal act prompted by Tehran’s regional influence and “success in fighting against Daesh.”

Tensions between the two countries have grown since Trump pulled the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran last May and reimposed sanctions that had crippled Iran’s economy. Trump said the accord did not address Iran’s ballistic missile activity or its malign influence in the region.

 

 

Iran's 'blunt instrument'

Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, said the Middle East can not be more stable without weakening the IRGC. "It is the blunt instrument of Iran's foreign policy," he added.

A senior Trump administration official said the new measure would criminalize contact with the Guards and “enable our prosecutors to bring charges to those that bring material support to the IRGC.”

“The IRGC is interwoven into the Iranian economy.... The safest course is to stop doing business with the IRGC. If you do business with the IRGC you run the risk of bankrolling terrorism,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another official said the force has “been a principal driver of violence on a vast scale for many decades” in an attempt “to reshape the Middle East in Iran’s favor.”

Iran’s parliament has vowed to retaliate by passing an urgent bill putting American troops on its own terrorism blacklist.

“Even though we believe one should not play along with America’s extreme acts, the reality is that we must retaliate,” the head of Iran’s influential national security and foreign policy commission, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, told ISNA.

A statement signed by a majority of lawmakers in support of the bill said any action against Iran’s national security and its armed forces was “crossing a red line” and the US administration would “regret” its decision.


Iran frees Chinese-American scholar for US-held scientist

Updated 07 December 2019

Iran frees Chinese-American scholar for US-held scientist

  • President Donald Trump separately acknowledged Wang was free in a statement from the White House, saying he “is returning to the United States”
  • Tensions have been high between Iran and the US since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers in May 2018

TEHRAN: Iran and the US conducted a prisoner exchange Saturday that saw a detained Princeton graduate student released for an Iranian scientist held by America, marking a potential breakthrough between Tehran and Washington after months of tensions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made the first announcement on the trade via Twitter. The trade involves graduate student Xiyue Wang and scientist Massoud Soleimani.
“Glad that Professor Massoud Soleimani and Mr. Xiyue Wang will be joining their families shortly," Zarif wrote. “Many thanks to all engaged, particularly the Swiss government.”
In his tweet, Zarif confirmed rumors that had been circulating for days that a deal was in the works to free Wang.
President Donald Trump separately acknowledged Wang was free in a statement from the White House, saying he “is returning to the United States.”
“Mr. Wang had been held under the pretense of espionage since August 2016,” Trump said. “We thank our Swiss partners for their assistance in negotiating Mr. Wang’s release with Iran.”
The Swiss Embassy in Tehran looks out for America's interests in the country as the U.S. Embassy there has been closed since the 1979 student takeover and 444-day hostage crisis.
Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, accompanied the Iranian scientist to Switzerland to make the exchange and will return with Wang, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity as the information had yet to be released. The swap took place in Zurich and Hook and Wang are now en route to Landstuhl in Germany where Wang will be examined by doctors, the official said. Hook is expected to return to the US from Germany alone, as Wang is expected to be evaluated for several days.
Although Hook was present for the swap, the official said Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien played the lead role in the negotiations dating from his time as the special representative for hostage affairs at the State Department.
Iran's state-run IRNA news agency later reported that Soleimani was with Iranian officials in Switzerland. Soleimani was expected to return to Iran in the coming hours. Zarif later posted pictures of himself on Twitter with Soleimani in front of an Iranian government jet and later with the two talking on board.
Wang was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran for allegedly “infiltrating” the country and sending confidential material abroad. His family and Princeton University strongly denied the claims. Wang was arrested while conducting research on the Qajar dynasty that once ruled Iran for his doctorate in late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history, according to Princeton.
Hua Qu, the wife of Xiyue Wang, released a statement saying “our family is complete once again.”
“Our son Shaofan and I have waited three long years for this day and it’s hard to express in words how excited we are to be reunited with Xiyue,” she said. “We are thankful to everyone who helped make this happen.”
Princeton University spokesman Ben Chang said the school was aware of Wang's release.
“We are working with the family and government officials to facilitate his return to the United States,” Chang said.
Iran’s Revolutionary Court tried Wang. That court typically handles espionage cases and others involving smuggling, blasphemy and attempts to overthrow its Islamic government. Westerners and Iranian dual nationals with ties to the West often find themselves tried and convicted in closed-door trials in these courts, only later to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations.
Soleimani — who works in stem cell research, hematology and regenerative medicine — was arrested by US authorities on charges he had violated trade sanctions by trying to have biological material brought to Iran. He and his lawyers maintain his innocence, saying he seized on a former student’s plans to travel from the US to Iran in September 2016 as a chance to get recombinant proteins used in his research for a fraction of the price he’d pay at home.
Tensions have been high between Iran and the US since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers in May 2018. In the time since, the US has imposed harsh sanctions on Iran's economy. There also have been a series of attacks across the Mideast that the US blames on Iran.
Other Americans held in Iran include the 81-year-old businessman Baquer Namazi who has been held for over two years and diagnosed with epilepsy.
Both Baquer Namazi and his son Siamak Namazi, also a dual national who has been held for over three years, are serving a 10-year sentence after they were convicted of collaborating with a hostile power.
An Iranian-American art dealer Karan Vafadari and his Iranian wife, Afarin Neyssari, received 27-year and 16-year prison sentences, respectively. Also held is US Navy veteran Michael White.
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing as well. Iran says that Levinson is not in the country and that it has no further information about him, but his family holds Tehran responsible for his disappearance.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while saying Wang would soon be able to go home to his family, acknowledged other Americans remain held by Iran.
“The United States will not rest until we bring every American detained in Iran and around the world back home to their loved ones,” Pompeo said in a statement.