Donald Trump has announced he is to impose sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – a move that likely infuriate the authorities in Tehran.
Speaking in a televised address delivered from the White House in which he said he was refusing to recertify the Iran nuclear deal, the President said he was authorising the US Treasury to list the guards (IRGC) as supporters of terrorism.
The US’s decision not to certify Iran’s compliance had been long trailed in advance. However, the move to impose sanctions on the IRGC was not anticipated. Indeed, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had previously told reporters this would not happen.
“We hope that these new measures directed at the Iranian dictatorship will compel the government to re-evaluate its pursuit of terror at the expense of its people,” said Mr Trump.
Moments after Mr Trump completed his address, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control declared that the IRGC had been labelled under terrorism legislation.
“The IRGC has played a central role to Iran becoming the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror. Iran’s pursuit of power comes at the cost of regional stability, and Treasury will continue using its authorities to disrupt the IRGC’s destructive activities,” said Treasury Secretary Stevenc Mnuchin.
“We are designating the IRGC for providing support to the IRGC Quds Force, the key Iranian entity enabling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s relentless campaign of brutal violence against his own people, as well as the lethal activities of Hizballah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups.”
He added: “We urge the private sector to recognise that the IRGC permeates much of the Iranian economy, and those who transact with IRGC-controlled companies do so at great risk.”
The decision by the Trump administration to sanction the IRGC was revealed shortly ahead of Mr Trump’s speech by Buzzfeed, which said given the extensive role the guard plays in Iranian society, could have wide-ranging impacts.
“This is reckless beyond the extreme,” Barbara Slavin, an Iran expert at the Atlantic Council, told the news site.
“The reason being is that to designate the armed forces of another country as terrorists is to invite retaliation. Would the designation mean that US drone attacks on IRGC personnel are fair game? If so, expect to see Iranian proxies start killing US military personnel again in Iraq or in Afghanistan or Syria.”