The Trump administration formally announced on Monday that it is designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC—the regime's paramilitary fighting force—as a terrorist entity, the first such designation by the United States against a foreign country's military, according to U.S. officials.
The designation represents the strongest salvo yet by the Trump administration to choke off Iran's international resources and target its regional terror operations, which continue nearly unfettered in hotspots such as Yemen, Syria, and Iraq.
The IRGC and its affiliates are responsible for the deaths of more than 600 Americans and many other citizens in the region as part of the Islamic Republic's efforts to foment unrest across the globe. The terror designation will have a wide-ranging impact on Iran as it struggles to keep its economy afloat amid a flurry of new sanctions issued by the Trump administration.
Iran has already vowed to take punitive actions against the United States as a result of the designation, which could cripple many key sectors of the Iranian economy due to the IRGC’s involvement in a range of Tehran’s business ventures.
"The Trump Administration is taking this unprecedented step as part of a broader effort to counter Iran-backed terrorism around the world," the White House said in a fact sheet on the decision. "The Administration's action will increase the financial pressure and isolation of Iran and deprive the regime of resources it uses for its terrorist activities."
"The Administration's action will increase the financial pressure and isolation of Iran and deprive the regime of resources it uses for its terrorist activities," the White House said.
In making the decision to designate the IRGC, which has been rumored for some time, the White House considered the fighting force’s near total penetration of Iran’s society and economy. Any international government or business that is caught dealing with Iranian interests connected to the IRGC could face new sanctions.
"This action puts other governments and the private sector on notice about the nature of the IRGC, which operates front companies and institutions around the world to fund terror," the White House said. "The profits from what appear to be legitimate business deals can end up supporting the Iranian regime's terrorist agenda."
"The Iranian regime employs terrorism as a central tool of its statecraft and uses the IRGC to direct and carry out its global terrorist campaign," according to the White House. "The IRGC provides funding, equipment, training, and logistical support to terrorist groups."
The IRGC is known to conduct operations outside of Iran's borders, including assassination and terror plots dating back decades.
"The IRGC has been directly involved in terrorist plots in numerous countries," the White House noted. "In 2011, the IRGC Qods Force plotted a brazen attack on the Saudi Ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C., that was uncovered and thwarted."
"IRGC Qods Force activity has been uncovered and disrupted in Germany, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kenya, Bahrain, Turkey, and others," the White Hosue disclosed in announcing the designation. "The Iranian regime remains the world's leading state sponsor of terror, spending nearly a billion dollars every year to support terrorism."
"The regime provides funding to a number of terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Kata’ib Hizballah, al-Ashtar Brigades, and others," the White House said. "These sanctions help cut off revenues the regime uses to fund terrorism, promote global instability, fund nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and enrich its leaders."
Congressional critics of Iran were quick to celebrate the administration’s decision.
"I applaud President Trump and his administration for taking the long overdue step of designating Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization," Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said in a statement. "I have called on subsequent administrations to acknowledge this basic fact, and in 2015 and 2017 I introduced legislation that would have written it into U.S. code."
"Today's announcement should be followed by additional measures to do exactly that, as well as to hold the IRGC accountable for the full range of its additional malign and sanctionable activities, including ballistic missile proliferation, participating in Iran's drive for nuclear weapons, the war in Yemen, human rights atrocities, bolstering the murderous Assad regime in Syria, and financing Hezbollah," Cruz said.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas), head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also backed the decision, saying the IRGC should not be given a pass to continue its terror operations.
"The IRGC's elite Quds Force was previously designated, but this did not dissuade Iran from using its funding, weapons, and personnel to engage in deadly violence around the world," McCaul said in a statement. "As we learned last week, Iran was responsible for the deaths of over 600 U.S. service members during the Iraq War."
"This designation ends the façade that the IRGC is part of a normal military," he said. "They behave like a terrorist organization and will now be treated accordingly."