Why It Would Be Foolish to List Iran’s IRGC as a Terrorist Organization

20 February 2017 | 23:20 Code : 1967271 General category
By Reza Nasri.
Why It Would Be Foolish to List Iran’s IRGC as a Terrorist Organization

In the past few days, news agencies have reported about US President Donald Trump’s intention to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. Naturally, anti-Iran factions and hostile governments in the region have welcomed the plan.


The plan pursues multiple goals: the first goal is to provide legal and political context in order to financially and logistically weaken IRGC, the most influential military force standing against belligerent expansionist countries in the region. Secondly, a large number of economic institutions and private firms in strategic domains such as Iran’s energy, oil, gas sectors will be boycotted over the uncorroborated accusation of links with the IRGC. Thirdly, it will complicate the continuation of the nuclear deal, considered by many as a milestone of Iran’s growth.


Even though the blacklisting of IRGC may be likely, it would not be as easy as it seems, because it means the Trump administration will have to face international political and legal barriers once again.


To begin with, the fact on the ground is that the Guard Corps is NOT a terrorist organization. The international community knows this. By no legal definition of terrorism, including those accepted within the legal systems of the US and international law, could one consider the IRGC a terrorist organization.


The Guard Corps is the armed force of a sovereign country with all the criteria of a conventional army. The IRGC takes its mission, legitimacy, and power from Iran’s constitution. It has a clear structure and hierarchy. Almost half of Iran’s male population does its obligatory service under this official institution. All IRGC members have IDs, are dressed in uniforms, and carry identifiable badges. According to the Iranian constitution, all IRGC members are obliged to act within the framework of the military code of conduct, following international laws and conventions on war, including the Geneva Convention. As reports by international organizations have testified, the IRGC’s record during the eight-year war against Saddam Hussein’s army indicates that it has been more successful than armed forces in many other countries, in its compliance with international regulations and conventions on war. And, that came against an enemy who ruthlessly used weapons of mass destruction.


Naturally, apart from all the propaganda and psychological warfare launched against the IRGC, listing it as a terrorist organization would not be easy and insistence to do so would depreciate the whole listing process in the US. Moreover, blacklisting the armed forces of a Geneva Convention member state sets a precedent which would practically metamorphose legal notions, defining a new term, called ‘terrorist army’. The mere coinage of the term would stir the legal system ruling over armed conflicts. Previously, if an armed force was accused of deliberate, unjustified massacre of citizens, its officials and commanders could be tried for war crimes. If the heretical blacklisting of IRGC becomes realized, the commander accused of violating war regulations will seemingly be considered a terrorist.


Secondly, blacklisting IRGC is inconsistent with security requirements and realities of the region: the international community and Western counties are well aware that the IRGC is the greatest force vis-à-vis Takfiri terrorist groups, which have wreaked almost all the havoc and security threats on them. They know, or Iran should do something to make them learn, that if groups like Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Jundallah, and Jaish ul-Adl have not set foot in Khorasan or Sistan and Baluchestan and failed to expand beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is mainly because of the barrier the IRGC and Iran’s armed forces have made against them. Likewise, if ISIS, Al-Nusra Front, and the likes of them have not occupied the entire Iraq and failed to change more land into their bases and platforms of military and ideological operations, it is in some cases due to resistance from the IRGC.

General Michael Flynn, who ran US’ military intelligence in Afghanistan, and was Trump’s first national security advisor, vividly remembers that the main factor of Taliban’s defeat and fall in Afghanistan was IRGC’s consultative cooperation and military guidance offered to Northern Alliance and coalition forces led by the US.


Naturally, listing IRGC as a terrorist organization is not only an unwise thing to do from the viewpoint of the international community, it will also deprive the US of future opportunities for cooperation to defeat ‘real’ terrorist groups.


Thirdly, calling the IRGC a terrorist organization is not much in line with US commitments under the nuclear deal. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action forbids the US from “any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran”. Since many European governments and firms are in economic and commercial relations with institutions in which the IRGC is directly or indirectly a stakeholder, blacklisting the IRGC could be taken as a violation of the article. The JCPOA is, after all, a yet another balancing factor and legal barrier that could potentially block the Trump administration’s campaign.


*This article is a translation of an op-ed headlined ‘In Defense of IRGC’, which was published last Saturday on Khabar Online, a moderate political website.

tags: irgc iran-us relations terrorism

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