During remarks early this week in a Fox News interview following Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) being formally designated by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed that the US will view Iran's elite force just as it does ISIS.
Specifically Pompeo agreed that the commander of Iran's elite Quds Force, Maj Gen Qassem Soleimani, is a "terrorist" on the level of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a Fox News interview on Monday.
Fox's Bret Baier posed the question to the Secretary of State: The head of the IRGC, this man Qasem Soleimani, is by all accounts a bad character and has led all kinds of attacks. But are you saying that he now is equated to, let’s say, the head of ISIS, al-Baghdadi, in U.S. policy perspective?
Responding to whether Suleimani is now "equated" to notorious "caliphate head" Baghdadi, Pompeo affirmed, "Yeah. He is a terrorist."
This introduced the next obvious question which has no doubt been on the minds of Pentagon planners since the designation was announced: will the US military now target Soleimani and other IRGC commanders the way it does ISIS, with airstrikes and targeted assassination and/or invasion of territory held?
Baier asked: "So we as a country have a policy to target him or capture him?"
Pompeo explained, “Qassem Soleimani has the blood of Americans on his hands, as do the forces he leads,” according to the State Dept. read out of the interview.
"Each time we find an organization, institution, or an individual that has taken the lives of Americans, it is our responsibility – it’s indeed President Trump’s duty, and we have made tremendous progress in this administration’s first two years – to reduce the risk that any American will be killed by Qasem Soleimani and his merry band of brothers ever again," Pompeo responded.
Whether the Pentagon will actually be given the order to go after Quds force and other IRGC officers is perhaps a different matter, given such action would spark a direct war which would necessarily lead to US invasion and occupation of Tehran.
But legally it remains that US forces would be required to go after IRGC members wherever they are encountered in a foreign theater, which means the Persian Gulf and especially the narrow Strait of Hormuz — where IRGC speed boats are known to operate with regularity not far from US Navy ships (currently the US aircraft carrier John C. Stennis is deployed in the gulf) — is now a major flash point where exchange of fire between Iran and the US could erupt at any moment.