Iran’s defense minister warned on Thursday that should the US designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), a powerful branch of the Iranian military, as a terror organization — as US President Donald Trump has threatened to do — the move would be perceived as an attack on Iran as a whole.
Brig. General Amir 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 a “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.
Trump is expected to not recertify to Congress Iranian compliance with the nuclear accord, while not dismantling the deal itself.
The 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.