The White House is considering a proposal which could lead to naming Iran’s most powerful military and political institution, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, as a terrorist organization, the Reuters news agency reported Wednesday.
Quoting US officials, the agency said several government agencies had been consulted about such a move.
The IRGC, a branch of the Iranian military, combines military roles with operations to combat internal dissent against the regime. It is heavily involved in the Iranian economy and wields huge influence on politics.
It also oversees the IRGC Quds Force, which in turn funds, trains and equips foreign terror groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The Quds Force is among many IRGC-associated organizations and individuals already blacklisted by previous US administrations.
Last week, Reuters reported that the proposal concerning the IRGC is one of many being discussed as part of an overall Iran policy review.
It coincides with an administration decision last week to tighten sanctions on Tehran in response to a ballistic missile test.
Declaring the IRGC itself a terror organization could complicate US efforts to fight the Sunni Arab Islamic State terror organization in Iraq, Reuters said. There, the Shia Iranians are backing anti-IS militias and advising Iraqi security forces on how to counter the jihadist group.
Such a move could also have potential implications for the 2015 nuclear deal signed by Iran, the US and other world powers — a deal that US President Donald Trump has harshly criticized, but over which he has not yet taken any action.
But similar proposals that have been circulating — for example to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization — appear to have been put off indefinitely, Reuters said.
And the White House is currently focused on handling the fallout from another controversial move — Trump’s order to ban citizens from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the US.
“The new administration regards Iran as the clearest danger to US interests, and they’ve been looking for ways to turn up the heat,” a senior US official told Reuters.
But he warned that declaring the IRGC a terrorist organization could backfire, strengthening hardliners in Tehran and even pushing Iranian-backed forces in Iraq to turn their sights away from Islamic State and focus on attacking US-backed or even American forces.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.