On April 8, the Trump administration designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
President Trump announced the designation, stating that it aims to combat the IRGC’s terrorist activities and support for terrorism around the globe.
The step “recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” Trump said in a statement that described the IRGC as “the Iranian government's primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.”
Administration officials said the move is a response to Iran’s destabilizing behavior across the Middle East, including support for the regime in Syria, Houthi rebels in Yemen and Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as for assassination plots in Europe and the US.
The IRGC designation marks the first time that the United States has ever named a part of another government as a foreign terrorist organization.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also issued a statement, suggesting that the main purpose of the designation is to chill foreign financial institutions and companies from transacting with the IRGC or any related entities.
A State Department fact sheet indicates that the IRGC designation will come into force on April 15. It pledges to “continue to increase financial pressure and raise the costs on the Iranian regime for its support of terrorist activities until Tehran abandons this unacceptable behavior.” A few days earlier, the State Department posted a summary titled “Maximum Pressure Results,” which provides numbers on the scope of the US sanctions campaign against Iran.
The New York Times reported that the move faced opposition from top Pentagon and CIA officials, who argued that it might trigger IRGC retaliation against US personnel, but those objections were overruled by Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council responded Monday by declaring the US a “state sponsor of terrorism” and American troops operating in the region as “terrorist groups,” according to IRNA, Iran’s state-run news agency.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran declares itself in reciprocity against the unlawful and unreasonable action of the United States today, considering the United States as a terrorist sponsored government and the Central Command of the United States, CENTCOM, and all its affiliated forces as terrorist groups," the National Security Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran said in a statement, IRNA reported.