The Trump administration is considering designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terror organization, CNN reported Monday.
Current and former officials told the news network that the White House was considering the move as a means of ramping up pressure on Tehran.
The designation of terrorist organizations and individuals is the responsibility of the State Department.
According to CNN, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in favor of the designation. This is in contrast to his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, who in October told reporters that a designation of the IRGC as a terror group could have dangerous consequences.
“There are particular risks and complexities to designating an entire army, so to speak, of a country where that then puts in place certain requirements … that then triggers certain actions that we think are not appropriate and not necessarily in the best interests of our military,” Tillerson said.
Trump’s announcement on May 8 that Washington was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal was a fulfillment of a campaign promise to scrap the deal. The US president had often blasted the controversial agreement forged under his predecessor, Barack Obama, casting it as “defective” and unable to rein in Iranian behavior or halt the Islamic Republic’s quest to develop nuclear weapons. Trump said the 2015 agreement, which included Germany, France, Russia, China, and Britain, was a “horrible one-sided deal that should never ever have been made.”
Days later the Treasury announced sanctions against six Iranian individuals and three companies tied to the IRGC who were part of a currency network, which it said handled “hundreds of millions” of dollars in exchange transactions.
The Guard formed out of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution as a force meant to protect its Shiite-cleric-overseen government and was later enshrined in its constitution.
It operated parallel to the country’s regular armed forces, growing in prominence and power during a long and ruinous war with Iraq in the 1980s.
One of the main reasons the US is targeting the Guard is its al-Quds — or Jerusalem — Force, which is tasked with carrying out operations on foreign soil. That force is headed by Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who has risen to prominence by advising forces fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and in Syria on behalf of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.
US officials say the Guard under Soleimani taught Iraqi militants how to manufacture and use especially deadly roadside bombs against US troops after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Iran has denied that.
In 2007 the US Treasury Department designated the al-Quds force as a terror organization.
Soleimani himself remains popular among many Iranians, who see him as a selfless hero fighting Iran’s enemies abroad.
In January, German authorities said they were conducting searches countrywide in connection with 10 suspected Iranian spies, with one media report saying the suspects were members of the al-Quds force and had been watching Israeli and Jewish targets.
Agencies contributed to this report.