President Donald Trump’s planned designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization on Monday, April 8 , will add to US steps for maximizing the economic pressure on Iran in the coming two months.
It is the first time a government military entity has been branded terrorist. The US can expect Iran to retaliate at once by proclaiming the American army a global terrorist organization on a par with the Islamic State and calling on allied regimes to follow Tehran’s example, such as, for instance, Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. Closer to home, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah and the pro-Iranian militia conglomerate in Iraq, may well act in solidarity with Iran, in which case, violent clashes may erupt between the proxies Iran has scattered across the Middle East and US forces. Conscious of the threat, on Friday, April 5, American army units in the region were placed on the alert for Iranian-orchestrated reprisals.
DEBKAfile’s military analysts suggests that Trump’s latest move against the IRGC may take practical form in various ways:
- Does it mean that that US forces are henceforth licensed to attack IRGC forces in their different regional sectors of operation? Or was it a general directive to open the door for such attacks in the future?
- More realistically, blacklisting the IRGC as a terrorist organization is likely to bear more significantly on the Corps economic power, rather than its military functions. The Guards are not only Iran’s most powerful security organization, with control over its missiles and nuclear programs; they also rule essential sections of the economy, with responsibility for the country’s oil exports and import of energy products. The IRGC, moreover, manages the mechanisms set up with foreign governments, such as China, Russia, Turkey, Iraq and some western Europeans, to bypass or blunt the existing US sanctions against Iran. Therefore, Trump’s next action against the IRGC is likely to be the tightening of oil sanctions, which is expected to be announced on May 8, to mark the first anniversary of his decision to take the US out of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran. Those sanctions will be made more painful by Washington recalling the waivers granted to a number of nations, such as India, China and Iraq, allowing them to purchase certain quantities of Iranian oil while it was under embargo. Three weeks ago, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told an energy conference in Houston that the purpose of the administration’s sanctions against Iran was to “drive Iran’s oil exports down to zero.”
- Israel will be empowered to step up its aerial assaults on Iranian forces in Syria and extend them to western Iraq, where pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militias have piled up under IRGC command.