Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has warned the US not to designate it as a terrorist organisation, suggesting the US army could be at risk of attack if the elite force is targeted with sanctions.
If that happens, it would be the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that Iran’s military has faced sanctions. So far, entities and individuals affiliated to the Guards — one of the most powerful arms of the regime with numerous business interests — have been the target of international sanctions but not the Guards themselves.
“If media speculations on a foolish [decision] by the US administration to designate the Guards as a terrorist organisation are correct, the Guards would treat the US army similar to [the way it treats] Daesh [Isis] in the world, particularly in the Middle East,” said Brigadier General Mohammad-Ali Jafari, the Guards’ senior commander, referring to Iran’s fight against Isis in Iraq and Syria.
Mr Jafari said Iran would consider enforcement of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) — which Mr Trump signed into law in August to enact new sanctions on Iran, North Korea and Russia — as the unilateral exit of the US from the nuclear accord.
This, he said, would give the Islamic Republic “an opportunity to boost its conventional defensive, missile and regional programmes”. He added that “should this new US sanctions law be enforced [against Iran], this country [the US] must transfer its regional [military] bases away from the reach of Iranian missiles within a range of 2,000km”.
Last week, Mr Trump accused Iran of supporting terrorism and exporting violence, bloodshed, and chaos across the Middle East. Iranian troops and Tehran-backed Lebanese militant group Hizbollah have fought on the same side as Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s six-year civil war and have sided with Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen. Western diplomats in Tehran say a US move against the Guards would further complicate the crisis in the Middle East and could make Iran’s role more disruptive.
“We have told Americans repeatedly that the Iranian regime will close ranks and become a more dangerous force in the Middle East if the Guards are cornered,” said a senior western diplomat in Tehran. “But this [US] administration may not listen to us.”
European countries continue to back the nuclear deal — signed by six major powers and endorsed by the UN Security Council — which restricts Iran’s enrichment activities in exchange for limited sanctions relief. Mr Trump, who has called the accord “embarrassing” and the “worst deal ever”, is expected to decertify it by October 15 which gives the US Congress 60 days to decide on the fate of the deal.
Iran’s pragmatist president Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that the deal could not be rolled back and added that the world would condemn the US — and not Iran — for violating an international agreement.