TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that the United States was the real “leader of world terrorism” after Washington blacklisted Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a “foreign terrorist organization.”
“Who are you to label revolutionary institutions as terrorists?” Rouhani asked in a speech broadcast live by state television.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark Iran’s national nuclear technology day in Tehran, Rouhani defended the Revolutionary Guards as a force that has fought terrorism ever since its creation in 1979.
In contrast, the Islamic Republic’s president accused US forces of having always been directly or indirectly involved with terrorist groups or acts of terrorism.
“You want to use terrorist groups as tools against the nations of the region… you are the leader of world terrorism.
“Who is propagating and encouraging terrorism in today’s world? Who wanted to use ISIS (the Islamic State group) as a tool?” Rouhani asked, saying that the US is harboring the leaders of the jihadist organization.
“Even now America is hiding the heads of ISIS, even now they are not prepared to tell the regional governments where the heads of ISIS are hiding.”
Iran swiftly retaliated against the US move on Monday by calling US troops “terrorists.”
It is the first time that Washington has branded part of a foreign government a terrorist group, meaning that anyone who deals with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps could face prison in the United States.
To support his accusations, Rouhani cited the downing of Iran Air Flight 655 in July 1988 by missiles fired from the US naval ship the USS Vincennes.
“You have done everything imaginable. Which force was it that shot down our civil airliner in the waters of the Persian Gulf?” he said, adding that it was aimed at intimidating Iran.
“You wanted to tell the Iranian nation that we do not have any red lines, you wanted to say that we also kill children, you wanted to say that we also kill women,” Rouhani said, concluding that the US was transmitting “a message of terrorism in the whole world.”
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was formed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution with a mission to defend the clerical regime, and the force has amassed strong power both at home and abroad. The Guards’ prized unit is the Quds Force, which supports Iran-backed forces around the region, including Syrian President Bashar Assad and Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah.
In Tehran on Tuesday, many Iranian lawmakers dressed in paramilitary uniforms chanted “Death to America” as they convened the open parliament session.
Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani denounced the US decision as the “climax of stupidity and ignorance.” The Supreme National Security Council’s spokesman, Keivan Khosravi, said that going forward, “any unusual move by American forces in the region will be perceived as the behavior by a terrorist group.” He did not elaborate.
Iranian newspapers on Tuesday carried reports of the US move along with bellicose commentary on their front pages.
The Guard-affiliated Javan daily said any attack on Revolutionary Guard bases and facilities will be “recognized as a right” for Iran to respond. The hardline Kayhan newspaper said it gave Iranians “permission” to kill American military personnel.
State-owned IRAN daily went a step further, saying the US move was a “designation of the entire Iranian nation” as terrorist.
The pro-reform Shargh daily described it as “the last card” of President Donald Trump against Iran. Trump last year pulled America out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and re-imposed sanctions on the country, mainly targeting Iran’s vital oil sector.