Sputnik: What would be the fallout of a US decision to designate the IRGC a terror group?
Alam Saleh: The decision is an economic decision, rather than a military decision. The war on Iran began as economic pressure, with which Washington aims to crush the Iranian economy; to force Iran to follow its policies on Iran's missile and nuclear programs, its regional ambitions, and so on.
Sputnik: Was this an unexpected move?
Alam Saleh: No. Many IRGC officials or affiliated organizations were already recognized as 'terrorist' people or organizations; individuals were sanctioned, and of course they have been isolated. [This includes] General Qasem Soleimani, or the head of the Revolutionary Guard, Major General Mohammad Jafari, [as well as] many affiliated banks in Iran, Iraq and across the region.
So this move had been there for a long time. But recognizing the Revolutionary Guard [itself] as a terrorist group – that is something new.
Sputnik: What do you think the fallout of this decision is going to be?
Alam Saleh: It will strengthen the Revolutionary Guard's position in Iran. The Revolutionary Guard has been benefiting from the sanctions, and of course [the US decision] would harden their position in Iraq, in Syria and in Lebanon. It would make them more aggressive, and would leave them no reason to 'behave friendly' with the American presence in the region.
During the last 12 months, we see that the Revolutionary Guard was not very provocative toward American armies in the region. They have not targeted them; they have not threatened them even. As a result, that was kind of a behavioral change against the Americans by the Revolutionary Guard.
This is particularly important, since Pompeo has threatened to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero. Today we can hear some voices in Tehran, by the Revolutionary Guard, and also by President Rouhani, that this is not acceptable. We cannot see others expanding their oil exports, while ours is reduced to zero. That is a kind of – it's like a declaration of war, but in an economic way.
Sputnik: There are a lot of critics saying that labeling an official state military as a terror group, especially a group that's so far-reaching, would be not only unprecedented, but would expose US diplomatic and military officials to a lot of danger. Do you agree with that?
Alam Saleh: Yes of course it would. First of all, Washington is full of hawkish politicians at the moment; Washington knows what they can afford … they consider themselves too strong to be affected by their bad decisions and their irrational policies in the region.
This move definitely put the region into more [trouble]; it would [create] economic problems of course, security problems and political problems. [What's] yet to be seen is how the Revolutionary Guard would react against such a decision.
The US State Department designates Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan as state sponsors of terror. However, the IRGC, as an official branch of Iran's Armed Forces, has not been given this designation. Tehran rejects the classification and has pointed to its efforts to support the fight against Daesh/ISIS, a terror group outlawed in Russia, in Iraq, Syria, and in Iran itself.
Dr. Alam Saleh is a lecturer in Middle Eastern politics at Lancaster University. The views expressed by Dr. Saleh are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.