‘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.


Locust invasion in Yemen stokes food insecurity fears

A Yemeni tries to catch locusts on the rooftop of his house as they swarm several parts of the country bringing in devastations and destruction of major seasonal crops. (AFP)
Updated 13 July 2020

Locust invasion in Yemen stokes food insecurity fears

  • Billions of locusts invaded farms, cities and villages, devouring seasonal crops

AL-MUKALLA: Locust swarms have swept over farms in central, southern and eastern parts of Yemen, ravaging crops and stoking fears of food insecurity.

Residents and farmers in the provinces of Marib, Hadramout, Mahra and Abyan said that billions of locusts had invaded farms, cities and villages, devouring important seasonal crops such as dates and causing heavy losses.
“This is like a storm that razes anything it encounters,” Hussein Ben Al-Sheikh Abu Baker, an agricultural official from Hadramout’s Sah district, told Arab News on Sunday.
Images and videos posted on social media showed layers of creeping locusts laying waste to lemon farms in Marb, dates and alfalfa farms in Hadramout and flying swarms plunging cities into darkness. “The locusts have eaten all kinds of green trees, including the sesban tree. The losses are huge,” Abu Baker added.
Heavy rains and flash floods have hit several Yemeni provinces over the last couple of months, creating fruitful conditions for locusts to reproduce. Farmers complained that locusts had wiped out entire seasonal crops that are grown after rains.
Abu Baker said that he visited several affected farms in Hadramout, where farmers told him that if the government would not compensate them for the damage that it should at least get ready for a second potential locust wave that might occur in 10 days.
“The current swarms laid eggs that are expected to hatch in 10 days. We are bracing for the second wave of the locusts.”  
Last year, the UN said that the war in Yemen had disrupted vital monitoring and control efforts and several waves of locusts to hit neighboring countries had originated from Yemen.

This is like a storm that razes anything it encounters.

Hussein Ben Al-Sheikh Abu Baker, a Yemeni agricultural official

Yemeni government officials, responsible for battling the spread of locusts, have complained that fighting and a lack of funding have obstructed vital operations for combating the insects.
Ashor Al-Zubairi, the director of the Locust Control Unit at the Ministry of Agriculture in Hadramout’s Seiyun city, said that the ministry was carrying out a combat operation funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization in Hadramout and Mahra, but complained that the operation might fall short of its target due to a lack of funding and equipment.
“The spraying campaign will end in a week which is not enough to cover the entire plagued areas,” Al-Zubairi told Arab News. “We suggested increasing the number of spraying equipment or extending the campaign.”
He said that a large number of villagers had lost their source of income after the locusts ate crops and sheep food, predicting that the outbreak would likely last for at least two weeks if urgent control operations were not intensified and fighting continued. “Combating teams could not cross into some areas in Marib due to fighting.”
The widespread locust invasion comes as the World Food Programme (WFP) on July 10 sent an appeal for urgent funds for its programs in Yemen, warning that people would face starvation otherwise.
“There are 10 million people who are facing (an) acute food shortage, and we are ringing the alarm bell for these people, because their situation is deteriorating because of escalation and because of the lockdowns, the constraints and the social-economic impact of the coronavirus,” WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva.