By Pooya Stone
Officials from the US State Department have said that the decision to place the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTOs) will reduce the risk of American soldiers or citizens dying as a result of IRGC General Qasem Soleimani.
Brian Hook, US Special Representative for Iran, said: “General Soleimani has the blood of Americans on his hands, as does the force that he leads, and this designation that we took yesterday is another step to reduce the risk that any American soldier or any American will be killed by General Soleimani and the racket that he runs with the IRGC and the Quds Force.”
He highlighted evidence from recently declassified documents that blame the deaths of 608 US troops in Iraq from 2003 until 2011 on the IRGC’s supply of bombs to Shiite militias.
Donald Trump announced the designation, which comes into effect on April 15, on Monday. The US has previously blacklisted dozens of IRGC-affiliated entities and individuals, even designating the IRGC’s Quds Force, which fight Iran’s proxy wars in the region and the US described as Iran’s “primary arm for executing its policy of supporting terrorist and insurgent groups”, “for its support of terrorism” in 2007, but never the IRGC as a whole.
The IRGC has 125,000 fighters across its army, navy and air units, plus the Quds Force and the Basij volunteer paramilitary group.
Hook said that the designation would not increase the chances of a military conflict with Iran and explained that sanctions are designed to increase the costs of Tehran’s expansionist foreign policy.
He said: “There is no better path to support the Iranian people than to pressure the regime from outside and to drive up the costs of its internal repression and external terrorism.”
Patrick Clawson, a senior fellow and director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that the US Treasury Department had already labelled the IRGC as a terrorist organization three times since 2007, so he saw little practical implications to the move, advising that it was merely symbolic to place the IRGC on the FTO.
While Nathan Sales, the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, further explained that US sanctions have had immediate effects.
He said: “Hezbollah used to receive $700 million a year to commit its terrorism from the Iranian regime. They’re now doing a fund-raising drive. That tells you something about the effects that our designations and sanctions tools have had.”