The United States decision to designate (April 8, 2019) Iran’s Revolutionary Guards IRGC)1, 2 as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and impose sanctions on it have sparked contrasting reactions in Iran. While the leaders of the regime made haste to threaten a harsh response to the move, opposition elements at home and abroad praised it and said the IRGC was responsible for Iran’s problems and the tensions in the region.
The IRGC Commander Threatens to Retaliate
IRGC Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari warned the United States:
If the Americans go through with this stupid measure and put Iran’s national security in danger, we will take retaliatory steps as required by Iranian policy…. If such a measure is indeed carried out, the American military and security forces will not continue to enjoy the security they enjoy today in western Asia.3
Jafari added that Iran will retaliate against any measure on the same scale or even times greater to the United States’ detriment and that “the ridiculous move” will only strengthen IRGC’s defensive and offensive capabilities.4
#NetanyahuFirsters who have long agitated for FTO designation of the IRGC fully understand its consequences for US forces in the region. In fact, they seek to drag the US into a quagmire on his behalf. @realDonaldTrump should know better than to be conned into another US disaster.
Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, head of the Security Affairs Committee of the Iranian parliament (Majlis), likewise threatened that if the United States decides to designate the IRGC as a terror organization, Iran will then designate the U.S. forces stationed in the region as a terror organization akin to the Islamic State terror group.7
Other Majlis members expressed support for the IRGC and warned that “the United States, which supports terror organizations in the region, will pay a dear price if it takes this stupid and pointless step,” while calling the IRGC and its endeavors (which are based on article 150 of the New Constitution of Iran) “a very great achievement of the Iranian people.”
The Opposition Hopes: “An End to IRGC Terror”
In stark contrast, and not surprisingly, Iranian elements at home and abroad who oppose the regime expressed support for the anticipated U.S. decision and called for a Tweetstorm under the hashtag #EndOfIRGCterror. Other hashtags on the topic were launched such as #IRGCTerrorist and #Sanctioning_IRGC.8
Regime supporters Tweeted under the hashtag in Persian9 #IRGC_is_not_terrorist (#سپاه_تروریست_نیست), and in English #WeSupportIRGC, while uploading pictures of Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani and IRGC Commander Jafari, who enjoy mass support.10
Many Iranians view the IRGC, which is the regime’s arm of violent coercion, as directly responsible for abusing human rights and quashing popular protest, for the country’s economic plight and high unemployment, and for its frictions with the international and regional system stemming from the Quds Force’s “adventures” in various locales (Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, the Gulf states, and even South America and Africa). Several Tweets stated: “The Middle East will be more secure without the IRGC.” Another called the IRGC a “cancerous cell in Iran and the Middle East” and said, “Its designation as a terror organization is good news for millions of people…. The end of the IRGC will mark the beginning of freedom in Iran and the region after the IRGC has ravaged the soil of Iran and sown destruction in the region.”
The U.S. decision to designate the IRGC as a terror organization, if ultimately adopted, will bring the United States and Iran closer to confrontation. Regime opponents – within and outside Iran who see the IRGC as the root of the regime’s evil – can take encouragement from the Trump administration’s resolve to continue the fight against the regime.
The reformist circles in Iran’s regime also quietly support this move. It could bring about the weakening of the IRGC, which has gradually become the real landlord in Iran while expropriating the revolution from its stewards.
Former Iranian President Rafsanjani, who died a little over two years ago, was the most ardent opponent of the IRGC’s deepening involvement in the Iranian economy and government. The IRGC, which took the helm of the revolution based on a broadened interpretation of article 150 of the New Iranian Constitution, could find themselves facing a challenge to their continued revolutionary endeavor at home and abroad.
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