On Friday, Reuters news agency reported, citing American officials, the White House intended to add Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to its terror blacklist. On Monday, it designated the official Iranian military force a “terrorist organization”, marking the first time Washington has formally labeled another country’s military a terrorist group. The move raised a set of questions. How accordant is this move with the international laws? And what security consequences will it have?
What is motivating Trump to pressure IRGC?
Since Trump’s assumption of power in the US, his pressures on Tehran have unabatingly continued. Despite the Islamic Republic’s full commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal and reports by various American intelligence agencies confirming the commitment. So, the root motivation should be searched in other issues. In his national security document and his administration’s strategy, both published in 2017, the US leader emphasized on maximized pressure to curb Tehran’s growing influence in the region.
The Revolutionary Guards took a center stage in Trump’s anti-Iranian pressure campaign. The president referred to the IRGC being the target of his pressures even before he pulled out of the nuclear deal in May 2018. After the pullout, a media propaganda was launched with an emphasis on Trump playing the “madman strategy” in dealing with the Islamic Republic with the expectation to paralyze the Iranian economy and contain the elite force’s regional sway, all to undermine the leading state of the Axis of Resistance to press ahead with the “deal of the century” and reverse the American policy fiascos in West Asia.
Along with the pressures, the intelligence agencies of the US, Israeli regime, and some of their Arab allies helped some terrorist attacks launched by takfiri terrorist factions inside Iran.
But Washington faced a tough obstacle for its destabilizing policy. The IRGC firmly thwarted the US-led conspiracies in Syria, Iraq, and inside Iran. On October 10, 2018, IRGC “ground operations force” chief General Morteza Mirian said that only during Muraharam last year, over 1,000 terrorist operations were repelled by the force.
The US experienced an array of failures against Iran. It failed to garner a global coalition against Iran in anti-Iranian Warsaw conference. Washington sustained major defeats regionally as a result of resistance to by IRGC and its allies including Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces which have played significant role in fighting the apparently US-sponsored terrorism in Syria and Iraq. Tehran also has been successful in frustrating the massive US sanctions. These have driven Trump to label the Iranian military a terrorist organization in a desperate effort to realize his goals during what remains of his presidency.
Blacklisting IRGC and international laws
All countries across the world have an equal right to sovereignty. After the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, the states’ sovereignty was given more formality. The agreement’s terms recognized national sovereignty as a certain right. The external aspect of national sovereignty is the states’ independence against other powers. Item 1 of article 2 of the UN chapter also points to the states’ sovereignty as the basis for the foundation of the organization. Having official military force is an internationally recognized right under national sovereignty. There are no exceptions.
According to the article 150 of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Constitution, the IRGC is tasked with “protection of the Islamic Revolution and its achievements and is part of the Islamic Republic’s Armed Forces.” A state having two types of armed forces is not a violation of international standards. The US itself has six militaries, all involved in large-scale international activities and missions.
The US Congress in 2017 approved a law, dubbed “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), that opens the administration’s hands to sanction foreign entities. Trump is exploiting the concept of “international peace and security” to ban IRGC as a terrorist organization. Washington already labeled Quds Force, an IRGC branch tasked with overseas operations, as terror faction. Inside the US, the Departments of Treasury and State are responsible for labeling entities and individuals as terrorists with regard to Immigration and Nationality Act and Executive Order 13224 that bans foreign donations. But none of the laws surrounding these acts apply to the Iranian military force. Richard Nephew, a former Coordinator of US Sanctions, said that he was not totally sure that the ban on IRGC was accordant with the State Department policy of sanctioning none-state agents.
The Revolutionary Guards, thus, is a military according to the international norms and blacklisting it is an apparent violation of the international laws, devoid of credibility in the eyes of other states.
What are the consequences?
Some consequences will be the freeze of the IRGC assets and inspection of the IRGC-affiliated ships in the international waters. If the US does so in a bid to satisfy its allies, then the American forces in the region should take the challenge of confronting the Iranian elite force which is expected to bring heavy costs to the US vital interests in the region.
Aware of Trump’s administration’s wrong move, the US intelligence services warned of the ramifications. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford already warned about the severe consequences of the move. IRGC chief Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari warned that should the US proceed with the move, Washington should remove its military bases within 2,000 kilometers of Iranian missiles’ reach.
Iranís Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) has slammed the US government as "supporter of terrorism," designating American forces in West Asia, known as the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), as a "terrorist organization."
In a statement on Monday, the Iranian top security council said the designation came as a "reciprocal measure" against US President Donald Trumpís "illegal and unwise" move to blacklist Iranís Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.
The Iranian military force has a long list of dealing with economic and political pressure. Pressing it while the anti-Tehran sanctions in their peak will not effectively undermine the IRGC economically and militarily. But the decision will intensify its legitimacy to defend itself against the US forces. The prices will be paid by the US forces stationed in West Asia, US military’s regional facilities, and the countries hosting its military bases.