The US claims that the Revolutionary Guards’ presence in Syria — where it helps support the armed forces of the Syrian government — is a direct threat to Israel. “Under the cover of the Syrian war, the IRGC is now trying to plant military roots in Syria and establish a new strategic base to threaten Syria’s neighbors such as Israel,” Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, told reporters last Tuesday.
Hook also said that Iran was responsible for the deaths of at least 608 US service members in the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq. “This accounts for 17 percent of all deaths of US personnel in Iraq from 2003 and 2011. This death toll is in addition to the many thousands of Iraqis killed by the IRGC’s proxies,” he added.
What impact will the terror designation have on Iran and the rest of the region?
Experts believe the designation could bring the US and Iran ever closer to a direct military confrontation and dash any hopes of reviving talks over the 2015 nuclear deal.
The move had also been met with internal resistance in the Trump administration because of concerns about US troops in the Middle East.
“The impact (of the terror designation) could be a heightening of barriers to dialogue with Iran,” said Al Monitor Associate Editor Mohammad Ali Shabani. “It displays an ambition by proponents of confrontation with Iran to restrict Trump’s deal-making instinct, and also to make it as difficult as possible for the next US president to engage with the Islamic Republic.”
The designation also risks impacting US relations with countries in the region that have direct relations with the Iranian government, including Lebanon and Iraq, where Shia-led armed groups are supported by the IRGC and are represented in the governments of those countries.
“In the shorter term, (the terror designation) also represents an attempt to impose an ‘either with us or against us’ approach to several governments in the region, namely Lebanon and Iraq,” said Shabani.
Revolutionary Guards chief Jafari has already promised retaliation.
“If reports prove to be true that the stupid US administration intends to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization, then the IRGC will also specify the US army as a group (and target) like [ISIS] in all parts of the world, especially the Middle East,” the commander was quoted as saying in the semi-official Fars News agency.
The Trump administration’s move has already drawn praise from Israel, one of Iran’s biggest regional rivals. On Monday, Netanyahu tweeted, “Thank you for responding to another one of my important requests, that serves our interests and the interests of regional countries.”