Trump and his cabinet regard Iran as "the clearest danger to US interests," a senior aide told Reuters. "They’ve been looking for ways to turn up the heat," the official added.
The IRGC is labeled by the Times of Israel as Iran’s most powerful military and political institution. The IRGC has jurisdiction over the IRGC Quds Force, which the Israeli media outlet claims is involved in propping up Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) noted in a report titled "Iran: Politics, Human Rights, and U.S. Policy," that Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, the Basiji organization within the IRGC, as well as the Law Enforcement Forces, also factor into Iran’s most "prominent" security organizations.
US Press Secretary Sean Spicer last week gave the floor to White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn during a White House daily media conference. Flynn then announced that Washington is "officially" putting Tehran “on notice.” The US State Department’s tensions with Tehran, over alleged Iranian financial support of terror groups, dates to 1984, when the Middle Eastern nation was declared a state sponsor of terrorism by Washington’s diplomatic service, according to the US State Department website. Iranian officials have rejected the charge that Tehran supports terrorism, pointing instead to long-standing evidence that Saudi Arabia supports global terror, including the funding of participants in the 9/11 terror attacks on US soil.
Days after Flynn’s “notice,” Iran conducted its first successful test of a Sumar cruise missile, capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The White House issued new sanctions, directed against Iranian entities on Friday. The sanctions were imposed on individuals or groups thought to strengthen Iran’s ballistic missile program, Vox reported, including two Chinese companies and three Chinese nationals.
According to a CRS document on Iran, sanctions targeting the IRGC have been in place since 2005. Under Executive Order 13382, signed by President George W. Bush in 2005, “numerous Iranian entities, including the IRGC itself, have been designated,” the 2016 report said, adding that EO 13382 “remains in force.” EO 13382 was aimed at banning US transactions with organizations “determined to be supporting international proliferation,” researchers said.
Further unilateral action against Tehran is unlikely to gain support from Beijing. “The sanctions will not help in enhancing trust among the different parties involved and will not help in resolving international problems,” Chinese spokesman Lu Kang said.
A sanctions strategist from the administration of US President Barack Obama told Vox he was “very confident” that Trump’s sanctions “were prepared under Obama,” noting that Obama was willing to “hit the Chinese companies too, with some frequency.”