CONTENT PREVIEW
CBRN Assessment

IRGC terrorist designation would increase risk of doing business in Iran, indirectly threatening nuclear agreement

24 February 2017

Key Points

  • Royce's use of a "terrorist" label for the IRGC reflects the likely ongoing political debate in the US surrounding the designation of Iran's IRGC as a foreign terrorist organisation. Previously, the US only designated the IRGC Qods Force - the extra-territorial branch of the IRGC - as a terrorist group in 2007.
  • Although the terrorist designation would not introduce new US sanctions, it would probably allow the US Treasury to lower the criteria for designating IRGC affiliates and target a wider range of commercial and financial entities, without violating the nuclear agreement; this would increase the risk of doing business in Iran for non-US companies.
  • If enacted and enforced, this would reduce the IRGC's economic incentives for nuclear compliance, and therefore risk the nuclear agreement, with Iran being ascribed blame for its potential collapse.

EVENT

Chairman of US House Foreign Affairs Committee Republican Ed Royce said on 16 February 2017 that the US should impose sanctions on the "hundreds" of entities affiliated to Iran's "terror arm" - referring to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC - Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution).

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (Republican: California), centre, during the committee's hearing on Iran on 14 September 2016. (PA)House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (Republican: California), centre, during the committee's hearing on Iran on 14 September 2016. (PA)

The IRGC is a branch of Iran's Armed Forces, which is constitutionally bound to "fulfilling the ideological mission of jihad in God's way; that is, extending the sovereignty of God's law throughout the world". Royce's statement comes within the context of likely ongoing political debate in the US on ways to address perceived threats to US interests posed by the IRGC, namely its ballistic missile programme and its support for non-state armed groups including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. There is broad consensus between the Republican-majority congress and the Trump administration to strengthen non-nuclear sanctions to deter the IRGC's external operations. It remains unclear however, whether there is sufficient support within the US administration to proceed with the major escalatory option of an IRGC terrorist designation.

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