Netanyahu says Trump designated Iran Guards a terror group at his request
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Netanyahu says Trump designated Iran Guards a terror group at his request

PM takes credit for dramatic US move to further isolate Tehran, announced a day before Israelis go to the polls

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

US President Donald Trump (right) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the Oval Office of the White House, March 5, 2018, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump (right) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the Oval Office of the White House, March 5, 2018, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday thanked US President Donald Trump for designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization, claiming the dramatic move to further isolate Tehran came at his request.

In a tweet, Netanyahu said that labeling the Islamic Republic’s elite military force a terror group was “keeping the world safe from Iranian aggression and terrorism.”

In a subsequent Hebrew tweet, Netanyahu said the move “serves the interests of our countries and of countries in the region,” and warmly thanked the US leader for “acceding to another one of my important requests.”

“We will continue to work together in every way against the Iranian regime that threatens the State of Israel, the United States, and world peace,” he added.

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 against Tehran.

Trump said his administration’s “unprecedented” designation “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.”

The decision marks the first time that an extension of a foreign government has been designated a terrorist entity by the US.

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, in the capital Tehran, on September 22, 2018. (AFP/STR)

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.

Monday’s announcement came on the eve of Israeli elections where Netanyahu, a close Trump ally, is seeking to extend his 13 years in office.

Since taking office, Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Netanyahu has repeatedly claimed US recognition of Jerusalem and the Golan as two of his major accomplishments, and has used his close relationship with Trump to portray himself as a respected statesman with personal ties to world leaders.

In the run up to Tuesday’s elections, Trump hosted Netanyahu at the White House and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Likud billboard on the side of the busy Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv, February 3, 2019. The title reads ‘Netanyahu, in a different league.’ (Courtesy)

Iran’s top diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, slammed the US announcement on Twitter, saying the administration made the decision purely to boost Netanyahu’s popularity ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

“A(nother) misguided election-eve gift to Netanyahu. A(nother) dangerous US misadventure in the region,” he wrote.

In response to the US designation, Zarif urged Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to place American forces in the Middle East on Tehran’s list of “terrorist” groups.

Agencies and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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