So much for hope that Iran was prepared to de-escalate military tensions with the US.
As we reported yesterday, when we asked rhetorically "did Trump scare Iran", according to satellite photos obtained by Fox, Iran had pulled a missile from a launchpad, despite prepping it previously for launch, in a sign perhaps that Tehran was willing to make the first step in de-escalating tensions with Trump.
Alas, that was not the case, and as Fox News reports moments ago, citing a US official, Iran has launches another missile from launchpad where it conducted ballistic missile test last month.
According to Fox, the Semnan launch pad was the same as the one where recent satellite photos showed Iran had placed a Safir rocket poised to put a satellite into space before it was taken off the launcher. The reason Iran scrubbed the previous launch is not yet known. The missile used in Wednesday's launch was a short-range Mersad surface-to-air missile, which impacted 35 miles away, according to a U.S. official.
This latest test comes less than a week after the U.S. placed new sanctions on Iran. There's been a flurry of activity at the Semnan launch pad, located about 140 miles east of Tehran, in recent weeks, officials have told Fox News.
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While we are merely speculating, the launch may be in response to last night's report from Reuters that President Trump’s administration was considering potentially designating Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter. According to officials, such a proposal, which if implemented would add to measures the United States has already imposed on individuals and entities linked to the IRGC.
The IRGC is by far Iran’s most powerful security entity, which also has control over large stakes in Iran’s economy and huge influence in its political system. To be sure, Reuters admits that it had not seen a copy of the proposal, which could come in the form of an executive order directing the State Department to consider designating the IRGC as a terrorist group. It is unclear whether Trump would sign such an order.
The Revolutionary Guards answer to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose power far surpasses that of Rouhani.
Naming Iran's single most powerful military and political institution as a terrorist group could have potentially destabilizing effects, including further inflaming regional conflicts in which the United States and regional arch-rivals blame Iran for interference. Iran denies those allegations. It would also likely complicate the U.S. fight against Islamic State in Iraq, where Shi’ite militias backed by Iran and advised by IRGC fighters are battling the Sunni jihadist group.
According to Reuters, some of Trump’s more hawkish advisors in the White House have been urging him to increase sanctions on Iran since his administration began to take shape. After tightening sanctions against Iran last week in response to a ballistic missile test, White House officials said the measures were an “initial” step.
The United States has already blacklisted dozens of entities and people for affiliations with the IRGC. In 2007, the U.S. Treasury designated the IRGC’s Quds Force, its elite unit in charge of its operations abroad, “for its support of terrorism,” and has said it is Iran’s “primary arm for executing its policy of supporting terrorist and insurgent groups.”
A designation of the entire IRGC as a terrorist group would potentially have much broader implications, including for the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated between Iran and the United States and other major world powers. Sanctioning the IRGC could also backfire in different ways, this official warned, as it could strengthen the hardliners and undercut more moderate leaders such as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and encourage Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria to curtail any action against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and perhaps even sponsor actions against U.S.-backed or even American forces battling Islamic State in Iraq.
"The Iranians will not take any U.S. action lying down," said the official. "They may not act quickly or in the open, but there is a danger of an escalating conflict."