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EU backs down from adding Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to terror listing

Foreign policy chief Borrell says move can only be made if a member country first passes a ruling condemning IRGC for terrorist acts

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks with the media as he arrives for a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the European Council building in Brussels on January 23, 2023. (Virginia Mayo/AP)
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks with the media as he arrives for a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the European Council building in Brussels on January 23, 2023. (Virginia Mayo/AP)

The European Union is set Monday to impose sanctions on several more Iranian officials suspected of playing a role in the crackdown on protesters, but won’t add the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guard Corps to the EU’s terror group blacklist.

There has been vociferous pushback from Iranian officials against the listing move, along with warnings that European countries would face retaliation if it went ahead.

The 27-nation bloc has already imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iranian officials and organizations — including government ministers, military officers and Iran’s morality police — for human rights abuses over the protests that erupted in Iran in mid-September over the death of Mahsa Amini.

The 22-year-old woman died after being arrested by the morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code. Women have played a leading role in the protests, with many publicly removing the compulsory Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab.

At least four people have been executed since the demonstrations began, following rapid, closed-door trials. At least 519 people have been killed and more than 19,200 others arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that’s been monitoring the rallies.

The movement has become one of the greatest challenges to Iran’s Shiite theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

While EU foreign ministers, meeting in Brussels, will target more officials with travel bans and asset freezes, they won’t move forward on blacklisting the Revolutionary Guard Corps, despite last week’s appeal from the European Parliament for them to do so.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who chaired the meeting, said that this could only happen once a court in a member country hands down a ruling condemning the Iranian guard corps for terror acts.

“It is something that cannot be decided without a court decision first,” he told reporters.

European officials also fear that blacklisting the Revolutionary Guard would all but end the slim hopes the bloc might have of resuscitating the Iran nuclear agreement, which has been on ice since the Trump administration withdrew from the internationally-backed accord in 2018.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg expressed regret about Tehran’s recent actions and backed the plan to impose new sanctions.

Iran, Schallenberg said, “is on a collision course, with not only the international community, as far as the safeties of the nuclear program are concerned, but also with its own people, with the brutal crackdown of the civil society movement.”

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