WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump yesterday announced the United States is designating Iran's elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a terrorist organisation.
Mr Trump said in a statement that 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 was formed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution with a mission to defend the clerical regime, in contrast to the more traditional military units that protect borders.
Addressing reporters following Mr Trump's announcement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned all banks and businesses of the consequences of dealing with the Revolutionary Guards.
"The leaders of Iran are racketeers, not revolutionaries," Mr Pompeo said. "Businesses and banks around the world now have a clear duty to ensure that companies with which they conduct financial transactions are not conducted with the IRGC in any material way."
The Trump administration has already imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran after withdrawing last year from an international agreement under which Teheran drastically scaled back its nuclear programme.
A senior Trump administration official said the new measure would criminalise contact with the elite unit and "enable our prosecutors to bring charges to those that bring material support to the IRGC".
State-run TV in Iran said yesterday that Washington's decision contradicted international law and was illegal.
"No other country has the legal right to designate as terrorist another country's armed forces... Iran's influence in the Middle East and its success in fighting against the Islamic State (in Iraq and Syria) are reasons behind this designation," state TV said, without quoting a specific official.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS