CONTENT PREVIEW
CBRN Assessment

IRGC terrorist designation likely to trigger retaliation from Iran’s proxies, rather than Iranian attacks on US targets

10 April 2019
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The United States designated the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps as a terrorist organisation on 8 April. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the entire political class showed their support for the IRGC, with Rouhani threatening to mass produce IR8 advanced centrifuges.

Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani attends Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's meeting with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in Tehran on 18 September 2016. (Press Office of Iranian Supreme Leader/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani attends Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's meeting with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in Tehran on 18 September 2016. (Press Office of Iranian Supreme Leader/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

  • In the unlikely event that Iran attempts to shorten the timeframe required to produce nuclear weapons, the risk of Israeli and/or US military strikes would escalate exponentially. Despite the threat of advanced centrifuge production, Iran is unlikely to shorten the timeframe required to acquire a nuclear weapon, as it almost certainly recognises that this would be a US and Israeli ‘red line’. Iran is rather likely to test the limits of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by conducting activities that violate the spirit but not the letter of the agreement, such as stockpiling but not activating centrifuges. It will likely stop short of action that would risk European withdrawal from the agreement, let alone US military action, until at least the US presidential election in 2020.
  • Iran is likely to limit its response to employing proxies against US allies in the region, rather than targeting US personnel or assets directly through proxies. Iranian proxies in Iraq and Syria are unlikely to retaliate against US forces in those countries, as doing so would almost certainly trigger a disproportionate US military response against these proxies and potentially the launch of US cruise missiles against IRGC targets within Iran. It is more likely that the Iranian proxies would funnel anticipated summer protests in Basra to locations hosting US companies in southern Iraq.
  • Iran is likely to intensify proxy attacks on Israel from Syria and Gaza, but not from Lebanon. IHS Markit assesses that neither Iran nor Hizbullah would conduct attacks against Israel from Lebanon, as such a measure would most likely escalate into a war that would severely devastate Lebanese infrastructure.

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