The United States will designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization, an unprecedented move that would ramp up pressure on the elite force, The Wall Street Journal and the Reuters news agency reported Friday.
The newspaper, quoting unnamed officials, said President Donald Trump’s administration would announce the long-mulled decision as soon as Monday and that concerned defense officials were bracing for the impact. Reuters said three US officials confirmed the plan.
It would be the first time the US has designated another nation’s army as a terror organization.
Iran warned that it could respond in kind, listing the US military as a terror group.
“If the Revolutionary Guards are placed on America’s list of terrorist groups, we will put that country’s military on the terror blacklist next to Daesh [Islamic State],” Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the head of the Iranian parliament’s national security committee, tweeted, according to Reuters.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp was formed after the 1979 Islamic revolution with a mission to defend the clerical regime, in contrast to more traditional military units that protect borders.
The Revolutionary Guards have amassed strong power within Iran, including with significant economic interests.
The Guards’ prized unit is the Quds Force, named for the Arabic word for Jerusalem, which supports forces allied with Iran around the region including Syrian President Bashar Assad and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
The Trump administration has already imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran after withdrawing last year from an international agreement under which Tehran drastically scaled back its nuclear program.
A foreign terrorist designation would make any activities of the group toxic for the United States, with any transactions involving US institutions or individuals subject to punishment.
The Wall Street Journal said that the Pentagon and the CIA had reservations about the move, saying it would increase risks for US troops without doing much more to damage the Iranian economy.
Reuters noted that in 2017 IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari said such action by Washington would lead the Guards to “consider the American army to be like Islamic State all around the world.”
Republican Senator Ben Sasse spoke in support of the move, saying “A formal designation and its consequences may be new, but these IRGC butchers have been terrorists for a long time.”