TEHERAN (AFP) - Iran declared the United States a "state sponsor of terrorism" and its forces in the region "terror groups", in a tit-for-tat response to a similar US move on Monday (April 8).
The Supreme National Security Council said its decision came after the US designated Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a "terrorist organisation".
In a statement carried by the official news agency IRNA, it slammed Washington's move as an "illegal and foolish act".
In return, it "declares that it considers the regime of the US a 'state sponsor of terrorism' and 'the Central Command of America, known as CENTCOM' and all forces related to it 'terrorist groups'," the statement said.
"The IRGC unlike America and its regional allies who have always supported extremist and terrorist groups in West Asia region, have always been in the frontline of fighting terrorism and extremism in the region," the council added.
Part of America's vast military presence around the globe, CENTCOM's area of command covers multiple war zones and hotspots including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the Gulf.
Iran's top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif had earlier urged President Hassan Rouhani to place CENTCOM forces on Teheran's list of terror groups, his ministry said.
Zarif blasted the US move on Twitter, saying it was timed to support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Tuesday's parliamentary election in the Jewish state.
"A(nother) misguided election-eve gift to Netanyahu. A(nother) dangerous U.S. misadventure in the region," he wrote.
The US decision came as part of already far-reaching attempts to undermine the Iranian government.
President Donald Trump said the "unprecedented" move "recognises the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft." "The IRGC is the Iranian government's primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign," Trump said in a statement.
It is the first time the United States has applied the designation to part of a foreign government, rather than guerrilla groups or other informal entities.
The move follows Trump's decision to pull the United States out of a multilateral deal with Iran that was meant to lift crippling economic sanctions in return curbs on Tehran's nuclear programme.