In an unprecedented step, the White House announced that President Trump has named Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terror organization under federal law.
“Today, I am formally announcing my Administration’s plan to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including its Qods Force, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO),” read the press release. Trump added that the step “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.”
Trump’s decision comes as the latest in the administration’s long campaign of clamping down on Iran and its government and military organizations. But this particular move, as recognized by many in the international media, is unique.
Why is this such a big deal?
Put bluntly, Trump’s declaration on the IRGC is the first instance in which the U.S. has designated a branch of internationally recognized government a terrorist organization.
Many observers (like this CNN interviewee) were shocked by the audacity in naming an arm of a sovereign state a terror organization. But Trump’s categorization of the Guard Corps is far from undeserved. In fact, the administration has simply decided to finally call a spade a spade.
The IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign. For over a decade, the federal executive, under both Bush and Obama, recognized the Corps as a diehard supporter of a slew of terror groups in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, from the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, to the Yemeni Houthis, to Shia militias in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. The Lebanese Hezbollah, certainly the most well-equipped and trained militant group in the Middle East, sees itself as the Lebanese arm of the IRGC.
In terms of practical implications, the White House announcement on IRGC’s status will add a new dimension to the sanctions campaign targeting Iran. The Corps has for years held important stakes in, and often administered direct control over, major Iranian businesses. With Trump’s decision to name Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terror organization, those who engage with Iranian firms run the risk not only of sanction violations, but of actually supporting a terrorist group.