Iran nuke head: Labeling IRGC a terror group ‘tantamount to declaration of war’
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Iran nuke head: Labeling IRGC a terror group ‘tantamount to declaration of war’

Iranian officials step up criticism of US ahead of Trump’s expected speech outlining more hawkish approach to Tehran

Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi talks at a conference on international cooperation for enhancing nuclear safety, security, safeguards and non-profileration, at the Lincei Academy, in Rome, October 10, 2017. (AP/Gregorio Borgia)
Head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Ali Akbar Salehi talks at a conference on international cooperation for enhancing nuclear safety, security, safeguards and non-profileration, at the Lincei Academy, in Rome, October 10, 2017. (AP/Gregorio Borgia)

Iran’s nuclear chief warned on Friday that should the US designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a powerful branch of the Iranian military, as a terror organization, it would be “tantamount to a declaration of war.”

The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, was speaking hours before US President Donald Trump was set to give a speech outlining a new, more hawkish approach toward Iran which will reportedly include a decision not to recertify the 2015 landmark nuclear deal and possibly designate the IRGC a terror group as a means to pressure Tehran.

Salehi said Friday that “given that the army and [other] armed forces of a country are guarantors of its security, the (possible) move (by the US to designate IRGC forces as terrorists) is tantamount to a declaration of war,” as quoted by Iranian media, echoing statements a day earlier by the Iranian defense minister.

Iranian officials have stepped up their criticism of the US in the lead up to Friday’s expected speech by the US president, warning simultaneously against any US moves that would jeopardize the nuclear accord and against any change to the status of the IRGC.

Trump, a vocal opponent of the Iranian deal — which he was called an “embarrassment” and “the worst deal” — is expected to not recertify to Congress Iranian compliance with the nuclear accord, while not dismantling the deal itself.

Earlier Friday, the Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said that should the US fail to abide by the nuclear agreement, there would be nothing left of it.

“If the US fails agreements on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program, nothing will remain from the deal,” Larijani said.

On Thursday, Iran’s defense minister Brig. General Amir Hatami said designating the IRGC a terror organization would be perceived as an attack on Iran as a whole.

Hatami said the “IRGC, the [Iranian] Army and the country’s other forces stand united and integrated in the face of the US government’s hostile and provocative policies and measures,” according to a translation published in Iranian Front Page news.

Hebrew media reported that Hatami said any designation of the Guards as a terror group would be a declaration of war.

“We will not allow Washington to endanger the region’s security by spreading proxy wars and terrorism,” Hatami said, adding that labeling the IRGC a terror group would be a “terrorist act” in itself, according to the Mehr news agency.

“The IRGC is the most powerful anti-terror organization and is at the forefront of fighting terrorism,” he was quoted as saying.

“Any move to undermine this anti-terrorism organization will help the spread of terrorism and insecurity in the region and the world,” he added.

On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said at a cabinet meeting that any measure by Trump against the IRGC will be the “worst mistake.”

Hatami on Thursday also blamed Israel for Trump’s plans to decertify the 2015 landmark nuclear deal and to roll out a more hawkish policy toward Iran, which would include the designation of the IRGC as a terror group.

“It is blatantly clear that the Zionist lobbying is behind such hostile measures by the US, which will ultimately hurt the people and army of the US itself,” he was quoted as saying.

The potential move to target Iranian organizations would allow Trump to show he is not easing the pressure against the Islamic Republic, even though the nuclear deal he has long criticized may continue.

The planned actions against Iran include financial sanctions on anyone who does business with the IRGC, as well as millions of dollars in rewards for information leading to the arrest of two operatives of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group.

Last week, the Revolutionary Guards chief said that if the United States designates the Guard as a terrorist group, it will consider the US Army as equivalent to the Islamic State terror group.

“If reports on the US decision to enlist Iran’s IRGC as a terrorist group happen to be true, the Iranian force would also treat the American Army everywhere in the world and especially in the Middle East in the same way as Daesh (IS) terrorists,” said Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari on Sunday.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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