WASHINGTON – The United States has decided to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country’s 125,000-strong military branch, as a “specially designated global terrorist,” according to U.S. officials, a move that allows Washington to target the group’s business operations and finances.
The Bush administration has chosen to move against the Revolutionary Guard Corps because of what U.S. officials describe as the group’s growing involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as its support for extremists throughout the Middle East, the sources said. The decision follows congressional pressure on the administration to toughen its stance against Tehran as well as U.S. frustration with the ineffectiveness of U.N. resolutions against Iran’s nuclear program, officials said.
The designation of the Revolutionary Guards will be made under Executive Order 13224, which President Bush signed two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to obstruct terrorist funding. It identifies individuals, businesses, charities and many extremist groups engaged in terrorist activities. The Revolutionary Guards would be the first national military branch included on the list, U.S. officials said – a highly unusual move because it is part of a government, rather than a typical non-state terrorist organization.
The order allows the United States to block the assets of terrorists and to disrupt operations by foreign businesses that “provide support, services or assistance to, or otherwise associate with, terrorists.”
The move reflects the escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran over issues including Iraq and Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Iran has been on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism since 1984, but in May the two countries began their first formal one-on-one dialogue in 28 years with a meeting of diplomats in Baghdad.
The main goal of the new designation is to clamp down on the Revolutionary Guards’ vast business network, as well as on foreign companies conducting business linked to the military unit and its personnel. The administration plans to list many of the Revolutionary Guards’ financial operations.
For weeks, the Bush administration has been debating whether to target the Revolutionary Guard Corps in full, or only its Quds Force wing, which U.S. officials have linked to the growing flow of explosives, roadside bombs, rockets and other arms to Shiite militias in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Although administration discussions remain ongoing, the initial decision is to target the entire Guard Corps, U.S. officials said. The administration has not yet decided when to announce the new measure, but officials said they would prefer to do so before the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly next month, when the United States intends to increase international pressure against Iran.