Iran promises 'crushing' response if US designates Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group: Report

LONDON (REUTERS) -  Iran promised on Monday (Oct 9)  to give a “crushing” response if the United States designated its elite Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group.

The pledge came a week before President Donald Trump announces final decision on how he wants to contain Teheran. He is expected on Oct 15 to will decertify the landmark international deal to curb Iran’s nuclear programme, in a step that potentially could cause the 2015 accord to unravel. 

Trump is also expected to designate Iran’s most powerful security force, the Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation, as he rolls out a broader US strategy on Iran. 

“We are hopeful that the United States does not make this strategic mistake,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA at a news conference.  “If they do, Iran’s reaction would be firm, decisive and crushing and the United States should bear all its consequences,” he added. 

Individuals and entities associated with the IRGC are currently on the US list of foreign terrorist organisations, but the organisation as a whole is not.  IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said on Sunday “if the news is correct about the stupidity of the American government in considering the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group, then the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American army to be like Islamic State all around the world.”

Jafari also said that additional sanctions would end the chances for future dialogue with the United States and that the Americans would have to move their regional bases outside the 2,000 km range of IRGC’s missiles. 

“MALIGN ACTIVITIES”

The foreign ministry spokesman Qasemi also denied US accusations that Iran had cooperated with North Korea.  In an interview that was aired on Saturday night, Trump accused Iran of “funding North Korea” and “doing things with North Korea that are totally inappropriate”.  Qasemi called the accusations “baseless”. 

“Israel and some specific countries are raising these accusations to create Iranophobia.”

In his first speech to the UN General Assembly in September Trump called Iran “a corrupt dictatorship”, and the nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama “an embarrassment”.  The deal, which was also supported by Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, saw Iran agree to curbs on its nuclear programme in return for the lifting of international sanctions that had damaged its economy. 

The Kremlin said on Monday that any US withdrawal from the nuclear deal would have “negative consequences.” British Prime Minister Theresa May, who supports the nuclear deal, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposes it, agreed in a phone call on Monday that they need to be“clear-eyed” about the threat Iran poses to the Middle East. 

“They agreed that ... the international community should continue working together to push back against Iran’s destabilising regional activity,” May’s spokesman said in a statement. 

Washington still maintains its own more limited sanctions on Iran over its missile programme and over accusations Teheran supports terrorism.  The Trump administration is seeking to put more pressure on the IRGC, especially over recent ballistic missile tests and what Washington has called its “malign activities” across the Middle East. 

US sanctions on the IRGC could affect conflicts in Iraq and Syria, where Teheran and Washington both support warring parties that oppose the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group. 

The US government imposed sanctions in July on 18 entities and people for supporting the IRGC in developing drones and military equipment. In August, the US Congress overwhelmingly approved the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” which imposed new sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missiles programme. 

The act, signed by Trump, also imposed sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear weapons development and on Russia for its alleged efforts to interfere in the 2016 US election.