The United States has formally added Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to its antiterrorism sanctions list, Press TV reports.
“I am authorizing the Treasury Department to further sanction the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its support for terrorism, and to apply sanctions to its officials, agents and affiliates. I urge our allies to join us in taking strong actions to curb Iran’s continued dangerous and destabilizing behavior,” U.S. President Donald Trump said.
During a speech on U.S. policy toward Iran on October 13, Trump said his administration would place “tough sanctions” on the IRGC. According to an October 13 statement on the U.S. Treasury Department website, the government will put into effect Section 105 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in August.
The statement said the IRGC had been designated “for providing support to a number of terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as to the Taliban.” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stopped short of declaring the IRGC as a terrorist group, but claimed that the force has “played a central role to Iran becoming the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror.”
The Treasury Department statement emphasized that the development did not mean that the United States has designated the IRGS as a foreign terrorist organization. The same Treasury Department statement also designated three Iran-based organizations that provide technical and financial support to the IRGC.
“We urge the private sector to recognize that the IRGC permeates much of the Iranian economy, and those who transact with IRGC-controlled companies do so at great risk,” Mnuchin said.
The new designation freezes the IRGC out of the U.S. financial system. Experts say the move could put a dent in Iran’s fragile economy and cause the IRGC to retaliate against U.S. military forces in the Middle East. The Treasury Department authorized the sanctions against the IRGC using a 9/11-era executive order that George W. Bush’s administration used to block financing to terrorist organizations.
In the runup to the speech, many Iran watchers believed there was a good chance that Trump would direct the State Department to officially label the IRGC a foreign terrorist organization. It would have been unprecedented for the administration to label a state organization as a terror group and would’ve exposed the organization to a wider set of punishing sanctions. But that didn’t happen. As BuzzFeed News notes, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested on Thursday that the administration believed officially designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization would have been too aggressive.
“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 where we run into one another in the battlefield that then triggers certain actions that we think are not appropriate and not necessarily in the best interest of our military,” Tillerson said at a press conference.
But the new authorization under Executive Order 13224 is still one of real consequence, and some analysts believe that Iran will not consider it to be that different from the official foreign terrorist organization designation.
“I think of it as a distinction without a difference in terms of what the impact will be and how the Iranians are going to read it,” Suzanne Maloney, deputy director of the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution and a former State Department adviser on Iran says.