There is an ongoing debate in the Trump administration on whether the United States should label the powerful Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. The move is seen as using everything in their power to halt Iran’s force projection in several areas.
While some warn a designation could pose risks to US personnel and installations overseas, it would allow the White House to freeze IRGC assets, impose travel bans and levy criminal penalties on top of pre-existing economic sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump.
“The United States is trying to change malign behavior of the Iranians and deter their aggression,” said Chris Costa, the executive director of the Spy Museum and a recently retired special adviser to Trump on counterterrorism. For that goal, “the special designation is a very important tool,” he said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in favor of the designation, sources familiar with his thinking say.
“There’s lots of things that are being discussed, things that will prove, we believe, very effective at the end goal-which is, at the end of the day, what matters, right?” Pompeo told CNN in a recent interview. “The end goal is to convince the Islamic Republic of Iran to be a normal country.” He declined to discuss specific plans for future sanctions and designations.
But labeling an official state military as a terror group, particularly a group with the reach and force of the IRGC, would be unprecedented and could expose US diplomatic and military officials to additional hazards, some warn.
The powerful military and security body is key to Iran’s influence in the Middle East, often linked to Iran’s support for terrorism. The organization controls wide swaths of the Iranian economy, including the energy sector.
The IRGC “provides weapons, training for regional proxies, regional forces … it focuses on terrorist groups, including Lebanese Hezbollah, the Houthis,” Costa, the former National Security Council counterterrorism adviser told CNN. “They’re a regional spoiler.”
Many in the intelligence community have always felt the IRGC is a terrorist group and saying that labeling them as such will not increase the threat level for US personnel in close proximity to them anyway.
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