Last week, President Trump signed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which targets Iran, North Korea and Russia,
The law requires the president to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist group, the first time the U.S. has designated the military branch of a foreign country in this manner. The terrorist designation will also be applied to Iran’s foreign agents and affiliates, and will be implemented by October 30.
The law’s Sec. 105 (3) states, “The IRGC, not just the IRGC-QF [the Qods Force, the Guard’s extraterritorial branch], is responsible for implementing Iran’s international program of destabilizing activities, support for acts of international terrorism, and ballistic missile program.”
The law is pursuant to Executive Order 13224, which aims at freezing the assets of terrorists and their supporters, and prevents their access to U.S. financial and commercial systems, according to the Treasury Department.
Iran’s Ground Forces, Aerospace Forces, Navy and the Basij paramilitary are all part of the IRGC; the Revolutionary Guard, an all-conscript army, is estimated to have 150,000 active duty members; a Western think tank estimated the Basij at 90,000 active members, 300,000 reservists and 1 million who could be mobilized.
As Amir Toumaj writes in longwarjournal.org:
Guard-owned companies would be eligible for designation as supporters of terrorism. The Revolutionary Guard has deeply penetrated key sectors of the Iranian economy, drawing on these resources to generate funds and support its military and civilian programs. For instance, a front company for the Qods Force, the Headquarters for the Restoration of Holy Shrines, raises funds and develops shrines in Iraq to project soft war and act as a pipeline for the force’s operations. Hundreds of companies, including major corporations traded on the Tehran Stock Exchange, are controlled by Revolutionary Guard foundations and a network of current and former Guardsmen.
Companies and foundations owned by the supreme leader that fund the Revolutionary Guard’s proxies would also be eligible for designation. According to Western intelligence reports, the supreme leader’s foundations provide financial support to Lebanese Hezbollah, which the US has classified as a terrorist group. Abdallah Safieddine, Hezbollah’s representative in Iran, told a reporter in 2012 that his organization receives funding directly from the supreme leader and his conglomerate.
Iran’s activities in foreign countries are legion; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats estimated that Iran “manages as many as” 10,000 Afghans, Pakistani and Iraqis in Syria in its efforts to aid Syrian president Bashar al Assad.
Revolutionary Guard chief commander Jafari warned in July that if the U.S. implemented the terrorist designation the U.S. “has to close down all its bases within 1,000 kilometers of Iran and it should realize that it will pay a high price for its miscalculation.” The chief of the Basij Organization, Qolam-Hossein Qeibparvar echoed, “Do they think that the region would remain safe for them when they call our people, corps, and government terrorists?"
Revolutionary Guard commanders, however, have a long record of issuing exaggerated statements to project an image of strength and to deter. Given the immense disparity in conventional capabilities with the U.S., the Guard prefers to avoid direct military confrontation, which would surely ensue following an attack on U.S. forces.