While Trump's just announced decision to decertify the Iranian nuclear deal, giving Congress 60 days to decide whether to unwind Obama's landmark deal, was widely leaked previously even though few can point to what terms of the agreement Iran has violated, one aspect of Trump's Iran statement was unclear: whether he would designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp, or IRGC, the elite wing of Iran's army, a terrorist organization - a move which Iran vowed would prompt "decisive , crushing" retaliation.
Trump did just that, and the new, sweeping sanctions on the IRGC could affect conflicts in Iraq and Syria, where Tehran and Washington both support warring parties that oppose the Islamic State militant group.
This is what the Treasury's OFAC unit posted on its sanctions website moments ago:
Treasury Designates the IRGC under Terrorism Authority and Targets IRGC and Military Supporters under Counter-Proliferation Authority
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) pursuant to the global terrorism Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 and consistent with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. OFAC designated the IRGC today for its activities in support of the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), which was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 on October 25, 2007, for providing support to a number of terrorist groups, including Hizballah and Hamas, as well as to the Taliban. The IRGC has provided material support to the IRGC-QF, including by providing training, personnel, and military equipment.
“The IRGC has played a central role to Iran becoming the world’s foremost state sponsor of terror. Iran’s pursuit of power comes at the cost of regional stability, and Treasury will continue using its authorities to disrupt the IRGC’s destructive activities,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “We are designating the IRGC for providing support to the IRGC-QF, the key Iranian entity enabling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s relentless campaign of brutal violence against his own people, as well as the lethal activities of Hizballah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups. We urge the private sector to recognize that the IRGC permeates much of the Iranian economy, and those who transact with IRGC-controlled companies do so at great risk.”
The IRGC was designated today for the activities it undertakes to assist in, sponsor, or provide financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, the IRGC-QF. The IRGC, which is the parent organization of the IRGC-QF, was previously designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 on October 25, 2007, in connection with its support to Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs, and pursuant to E.O. 13553 on June 9, 2011 and E.O. 13606 on April 23, 2012, in connection with Iran’s human rights abuses.
The IRGC has provided material support to the IRGC-QF, including by providing training, personnel, and military equipment. The IRGC has trained IRGC-QF personnel in Iran prior to their deployments to Syria, and has deployed at least hundreds of personnel from its conventional ground forces to Syria to support IRGC-QF operations. IRGC personnel in Syria have provided military assistance to the IRGC-QF, and have been assigned to IRGC-QF units on the battlefield, where they provide critical combat support, including serving as snipers and machine gunners.
Additionally, the IRGC has recruited, trained, and facilitated the travel of Afghan and Pakistani nationals to Syria, where those personnel are assigned to, and fight alongside, the IRGC-QF. The IRGC also has worked with the IRGC-QF to transfer military equipment to Syria. The IRGC used both IRGC bases and civilian airports in Iran to transfer military equipment to Iraq and Syria for the IRGC-QF.
Now it becomes a question of what Iran (and Russia) does: as a reminder, on Monday, Iran vowed to give a "firm and crushing" response if Washington adds the IRGC to the list of terrorist organizations, which the US just did.
"We are hopeful that the United States does not make this strategic mistake,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi stated during a news conference according to Reuters. “If they do, Iran’s reaction would be firm, decisive and crushing and the United States should bear all its consequences."
Commenting on the IRGC designation, University of Tehran analyst Seyed Mohammad Marandi said that Iran will give a similar designation to the US military. Asked by the local media if he expects Trump to decertify the nuclear deal on October, 15, and what impact this could have on stability in the world, Marandi responded:
It is quite possible. Of course, Mr. Trump is a very unpredictable person, but all indications seem to show that that is what he is going to do. If he does decertify the agreement, basically it will show the international community the US is an untrustworthy country, and it is not a country you can negotiate with. It will prevent Iran from being able to carry out any negotiations in the future with the US because the Iranians will conclude that even if there is some sort of agreement over any Issue, the US may tear up that agreement later on. And I think the same is true with any country that wants or is even contemplating negotiating with the US. The US hurts itself more than anyone else. If it wishes to increase sanctions on Iran, then I think the Iranians will find the means to retaliate.
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If he decertifies the nuclear deal, a lot will depend on the reaction of the EU countries. If the EU countries simply verbally oppose Trump, that is one way of moving forward. I think that would lead to the deal unfolding completely. If on the other hand, the EU countries and England decide that they will retaliate against the US, that they will sue the US or punish the US if it tries to punish their companies, that may bring about a different situation. But without a doubt, if the US wants to push for greater confrontation with Iran, the Iranians know quite well that the only way to make sure the US backs off is if the Iranians push back just as hard, if not harder. Iran will not initiate any form of confrontation, conflict or tit-for-tat, but if the US begins something, then the Iranians will definitely push back very hard
As for whether the Iran deal ends following a Congressional review, a U.S. pullout from the Iran deal would unravel an accord seen by supporters as vital to preventing a Middle East arms race and tamping down regional tensions, since it limits Iran’s ability to enrich uranium for nuclear fuel in exchange for the lifting of sanctions that damaged its oil-based economy. As a reminder, prior to the deal Iran and Israel were constantly at each other's throats, resulting in a constant fear of imminent war between the two nations.