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Trump designates Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran

Trump designates Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran

Relevance:

  • GS 2 || International Relations || India & Rest of the World || USA

Why in news?

  • US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently announced the Trump administration’s intent to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), including its Quds Force, as a foreign terrorist organisation (FTO) in accordance with Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

IRGC & Quds force

  • IRGC: The IRGC was set up in 1979 after Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution as an ideologically-driven branch of the armed forces of Iran –
    • to protect the newly established Islamic system from hostile foreign powers and internal dissensions.
  • The IRGC is today a 125,000-strong force with ground, naval, and air wings, tasked with internal and border security, law enforcement, and protection of Iran’s missiles.
  • It controls the Basij militia, a semi-government paramilitary force estimated to have up to a million active members.
  • Quds force: The elite Quds Force or Qods Corps is an elite wing of the IRGC, reporting directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
  • It has perhaps 10,000-20,000 members, and carries out unconventional warfare beyond Iran’s borders, often working with non-state actors such as the –
    • Hezbollah in Lebanon,
    • Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip and West Bank,
    • the Houthis in Yemen, and
    • Shia militias in Iraq and Syria.

Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO)

  • Section 219 of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act authorises the US Secretary of State to designate an organization as a foreign terrorist organization, if the Secretary finds that
  1. the organization is a foreign organization;
  2. the organization engages in terrorist activity or terrorism, or
  3. threatens the security of United States nationals or the national security of the United States
  • The State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism states that:
    • “FTO designations play a critical role in (the US’s) fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business”.
  • 67 terrorist organisations currently figure on the State Department’s list of FTOs, including Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaida and its regional branches, the Islamic State and its regional operations, Jundallah, Boko Haram, and the Colombian FARC.
  • Also on the list are several organisations based in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which directly threaten India, such as the Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizb ul-Mujahideen, Haqqani Network, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
  • The Indian Mujahideen, LTTE, and Harkat-ul Jihad al-Islami-Bangladesh are also on the list of 67 FTOs.

Why IRGC?

  • Iranian regime: The designation of IRGC as an FTO highlights that Iran is an outlaw regime that uses terrorism as a key tool of statecraft.
    • The Iranian regime is responsible for the deaths of at least 603 American service members in Iraq since 2003.
    • This accounts for 17% of all deaths of US personnel in Iraq from 2003 to 2011, and is in addition to the many thousands of Iraqis killed by the IRGC’s proxies.
  • IRGC: The IRGC, part of Iran’s official military, has engaged in terrorist activity or terrorism since its inception 40 years ago.
    • The IRGC has been directly involved in terrorist plotting; its support for terrorism is foundational and institutional, and it has killed US citizens.
    • It is also responsible for taking hostages and wrongfully detaining numerous US persons, several of whom remain in captivity in Iran today.
  • Quds Force: The IRGC — most prominently through its Qods Force — has the greatest role among Iran’s actors in directing and carrying out a global terrorist campaign.
    • In recent years, IRGC Qods Force terrorist planning has been uncovered and disrupted in many countries, including Germany, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kenya, Bahrain, and Turkey.

Contention

  • This is the first time that the US has interpreted Section 219 of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act as permitting the designation of a government entity a terrorist organisation.
    • It had taken this “historic step” because the Iranian regime’s use of terrorism as a tool of statecraft makes it fundamentally different from any other government.
  • The new measure would criminalise contact with the Guards and enable prosecutors to bring charges to those that bring material support to the IRGC.

Iran’s stance

  • Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said on national television that the United States was the real “leader of world terrorism”.
  • The Revolutionary Guards have sacrificed their lives to protect the people of Iran.
  • In retaliatory action, Tehran named the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) as a terrorist organisation and the US government as a sponsor of terror.

Implications

  • The designation as FTO will impose sweeping economic and travel sanctions on the IRGC and on organisations, companies, and individuals that have links to it.
    • Businesses and banks around the world now have a clear duty to ensure that companies with which they conduct financial transactions are not conducted with the IRGC in any material way
  • The US action is bound to raise tensions in the Middle East.
    • Tehran-Washington relations plunged after Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, and reimposed sanctions on the country in May 2018.
  • Iran has threatened to resume its suspended nuclear work, and IRGC commanders have warned that US bases in the Middle East and US aircraft carriers in the Gulf are within the range of Iranian missiles.
  • Iran has also threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if the US tries to strangle its economy, Reuters reported.

Additional info

Islamic Revolution of Iran (1979)

  • The Iranian Revolution, also known as the Islamic Revolution or the 1979 Revolution, was a series of events that involved –
    • the overthrow of the last monarch of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, and
    • the replacement of his government with an Islamic republic under the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a leader of one of the factions in the revolt.
  • The movement against the United States-backed monarchy was supported by various leftist and Islamist organizations and student movements.
  • The revolution was unusual for the surprise it created throughout the world:
    • it lacked many of the customary causes of revolution (defeat at war, a financial crisis, peasant rebellion, or disgruntled military),
    • occurred in a nation that was experiencing relative prosperity,
    • produced profound change at great speed,
    • was massively popular,
    • resulted in the exile of many Iranians, and
    • replaced a pro-Western authoritarian monarchy with an anti-Western totalitarian theocracy based on the concept of Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists (or velayat-e-faqih).
  • It was a relatively non-violent revolution, and it helped to redefine the meaning and practice of modern revolutions (although there was violence in its aftermath).

Mains question

  • Who are Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, now designated a terrorist body by the US? Critically analyze the reasons behind the move and its impact.