Congress Presses Europe To Designate Iran's Military as a Terror Group

'IRGC clearly presents a threat to the EU and our collective security,' Republican senators say

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps / Getty Images
March 23, 2023

A coalition of Republican senators is pressuring the European Union to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, warning that Tehran’s paramilitary fighting force is "sowing terror in the West."

"The IRGC clearly presents a threat to the EU and our collective security," 12 Republican senators led by Sen. James Risch (R., Idaho), ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote on Wednesday to Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. "It is long past time to cut off its resources before the next tragedy strikes."

The EU has stalled for months on a recommendation by the European Parliament that it designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization and put in place a strict sanctions regime. European countries have been hesitant to move forward with such a designation due to trade relations, but pressure has mounted in the months since Iran began supplying lethal drone technology to Russia for its war in Ukraine. Iran has issued threats of "unwanted legal and political consequences" for Europe if it designates the IRGC as a terrorist group.

Republicans say an EU "designation will cripple the IRGC's ability to promote terrorism and will make the world safer for Americans and Europeans alike," according to a copy of the letter exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The United States designated the IRGC as a global terrorist organization in 2019. The decision authorized a bevy of sanctions on the IRGC, its terrorist affiliates, and large portions of Iran’s economic sector that are controlled by the elite fighting force. While the Biden administration initially contemplated removing this designation as part of concessions aimed at securing a revamped version of the 2015 nuclear deal, Republican pushback thwarted that effort.

The EU approved sweeping sanctions on Iran in late January, including some measures that targeted the IRGC, although it stopped short of designating the group. European countries are "seriously alarmed by Iran's move to supply Russia with drones for its war in Ukraine," according to Axios.

"Amidst the IRGC's ongoing support of Russian war crimes in Ukraine, EU reluctance both weakens our collective resolve against Russia and ignores the Iranian government's goal of sowing terror in the West," the senators wrote. "The growing alignment of Russian and Iranian activities, including the use of Iranian drones in Ukraine, makes the IRGC complicit in Russia's terror."

An EU designation of the IRGC will ultimately "sharpen and align the U.S. and EU responses to Russian aggression," according to the senators.

The EU has delayed action on the IRGC by claiming it does not have enough evidence to legally designate Tehran’s forces. But the Republican senators say that Iran’s terrorism plots across Europe provide all the proof needed to move forward with a terror designation.

"IRGC actions have already hurt Europeans," they wrote, pointing to the July 2012 arrest of an IRGC operative in Bulgaria who was "suspected of planning an attack on a synagogue in Sophia."

In 2016 and then again in 2022, German officials also arrested "IRGC-sponsored assassins," according to the senators. In April 2022, an IRGC operative disclosed assassination plots in Germany and France.

"It is clear," the senators conclude, "that there is sufficient evidence of IRGC malign conduct in Europe to warrant a terror designation."