Iran’s Supreme National Security Council on Monday declared the United States a “state sponsor of terrorism” and US forces in the region “terrorist groups,” state media said.
In a statement carried by the official news agency IRNA, it said the move was in response to Washington’s “illegal and foolish act” of designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization.
The move came shortly after Iran’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, urged President Hassan Rouhani to place the US military’s Central Command, or CENTCOM, which has troops stationed from central Asia to Egypt, “on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s list of terrorist groups,” Iran’s foreign ministry said.
Zarif also blasted the US move on Twitter, saying it was done to support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ahead of Tuesday’s parliamentary election in Israel.
“A(nother) misguided election-eve gift to Netanyahu. A(nother) dangerous U.S. misadventure in the region,” he wrote.
Part of America’s vast military presence around the globe, CENTCOM’s area of command covers multiple war zones and hotspots including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and the Gulf.
Iranian state-run television also charged on Monday that the American designation was illegal.
“No other country has the legal right to designate as terrorist another country’s armed forces … Iran’s influence in the Middle East and its success in fighting against Islamic State are reasons behind this designation,” Reuters quoted official state television as saying.
US President Donald Trump officially designated the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization earlier in the day, in a move that Israel has long pushed for and that ramps up the administration’s pressure campaign against Tehran.
The decision, which Netanyahu claimed had come at his request, is the first time that an extension of a foreign government has been designated a terrorist entity by the US.
“This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a state sponsor of terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” US President Donald Trump said in a statement.
“The IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.”
The Trump administration’s decision is expected to further ramp up tensions between the US and Iran, whose leaders have warned that, if the US were to make such a designation, they would respond by labeling the US military a terrorist group.
Monday’s decision will mean that anyone who deals with the IRGC could face criminal charges, including aiding or supporting a terrorist group, the White House said.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was formed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with a mission to defend the clerical regime, in contrast to the more traditional military units that protected Iranian borders. It exists in parallel to Iran’s regular military. The Revolutionary Guards have amassed enormous power within Iran, becoming owners of significant industries and other economic interests, on behalf of the regime.
The Syrian government, meanwhile, condemned the US decision as as irresponsible, calling it a “badge of honor” for the Islamic republic.
A foreign ministry source told state news agency SANA that the US move against the IRGC was “a blatant attack” on the sovereignty of Iran, a strong ally of the Syrian regime in the country’s eight-year civil war.
But the source said the “irresponsible step” was also recognition of the Guards’ important role in defending the country’s sovereignty, its independence, and its resistance against the US and Israel, SANA said.