“The United States must find a way of diminishing the Guards’ power,” experts urged.
The United States should officially designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, two think tank experts wrote in Foreign Affairs on Monday.
Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations, pointed out that, “since its foundation, the IRGC has overseen a terror apparatus that has assassinated intellectuals, journalists, dissident politicians, and literary figures.”
Beginning in the 1980s, the IRGC was employed to suppress dissent and persecute minorities inside Iran. The IRGC was instrumental in putting down the 1999 student protests—a move supported by now-president Hassan Rouhani, who was then secretary of the Supreme National Security Council.
At the same time, the IRGC has garnered attention due to its terrorism beyond Iran’s borders. It merged a number of Shiite militias to create Hezbollah, “which has become Iran’s most dependable and lethal proxy.”
Hezbollah helped the IRGC carry out the 1983 attack on the US Marines barracks in Beirut, killing 238 American soldiers, and the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American soldiers. In 2011, an Iranian agent was convicted of attempting to assassinate Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir at a popular Washington restaurant. According to then-Attorney General Eric Holder, the plot was “directed and approved by elements of the Iranian government, and, specifically by the senior members of the Quds Force,” an arm of the IRGC.
The IRGC was also instrumental in defending the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Based on the Guards’ actions in that country, “it can be said that Assad’s war crimes are also the IRGC’s war crimes since the IRGC directed military operations, carried out by either Shiite militias or Assad’s forces, explicitly aimed at slaughtering civilians,” the experts wrote.
Yet the Obama administration never sought any sort of penalty against the IRGC, apparently because President Barack Obama was “focused on brokering his Iran nuclear deal” and was uninterested in complicating his relationship with Iran.
No Stable Mideast with the IRGC
Given the havoc wreaked by the IRGC, President Donald Trump “must understand that it cannot stabilize the Middle East without first weakening the IRGC,” the experts wrote. The key to weakening the IRGC, they stressed, is to attack its financial empire. (It is estimated that the IRGC controls one-sixth of Iran’s economy, and has benefited significantly from the lifting of sanctions on Iran.)
If Trump is unable to officially designate the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, then he should rely on Executive Order 13224, enacted in the wake of 9/11 by President George W. Bush, “which gives the administration the authority to freeze the assets of individuals or groups that either carry out terrorist acts or are at risk of doing so.” By using this tool, Trump could effectively shut the IRGC out of the global economy. The executive order was used by Bush to block the assets of the Quds Force after it was found to support Hezbollah, the Taliban, and three Palestinian terror groups.
The Quds Force is only a small part of the IRGC, so making a dent in the IRGC’s financial empire would require targeting the whole corps and its varied business interests. Dubowitz and Takeyh explain how the executive order could be used:
“Designating the IRGC through Bush’s executive order would thus be much more effective, especially if the Trump administration significantly expands the number of IRGC entities and individuals subject to sanctions from the current 60 to include the thousands of front companies operated by the guards. This would further squeeze the force, financially, since it would heighten the risks for European and Asian corporations looking to do business worth billions of dollars in sectors controlled by the guards,” they wrote.
Whether by designating the IRGC a Foreign Terrorist Organization or by using the executive order, the authors concluded, “the United States must find a way of diminishing the Guards’ power.”
By: The Tower