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Trump Is Laying the Groundwork for War

President Donald Trump speaks to the media in the Rose Garden at the White House, Jan. 4, 2019. Michael Candelori/Shutterstock

Borzou Daragahi explains why what he calls “geopolitical name-calling” is so harmful:

Labeling the IRGC as a terrorist organization will likely only push potential American allies into an uncomfortable situation where they may be forced to betray the United States.

After all, Iran is what it is and cannot be divorced from the region. Meanwhile, the US has proven itself at best a fickle friend that has repeatedly abandoned allies. The Trump administration has repeatedly threatened to toss Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan allies aside.

Why would the People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters in northern Syria or Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense stop talking to the IRGC, which has been around for 40 years and may be around for another forty, to appease a White House that might change hands in less than two years?

More than anything, the terrorism designation just risks making such designations more meaningless than they already are, in a region where the term is bandied about too readily.

Trump’s irresponsible decision doesn’t serve U.S. interests in the least, but it will make it more difficult for a future administration to enter into negotiations with Iran or lift sanctions. Iran hawks have been very open about their desire to tie the hands of the next president, and with this designation they are hoping to lock the U.S. on a collision course with Iran. The Iranian government has been trying to wait until Trump is no longer in office, and our hard-liners want to make it seem as if there is no point in doing that. Their goal as always remains Iran’s isolation in the vain belief that this will lead to regime change. Many regional governments that have and need to preserve good relations with Iran aren’t going to participate in this effort, and by putting them on the spot this designation is likely to hurt U.S. relations with Iraq and Lebanon. Worse than that, it lays the groundwork for war. Benjamin Friedman warned against this yesterday:

Designating a part of Iran’s government as a terrorist organization is a step toward saying, ‘we cannot live with them and have to bomb them.’

The designation is an overly broad and ideological one, and it is driven by the same obsessive hostility that is warping the rest of U.S. policy towards Iran. Jason Rezaian, who has more reason than most to loathe the IRGC, questioned the decision: “I worry that this is another instance in which the U.S. government is guilty of criminalizing people simply for being Iranian.” Trump has called Iran a “terrorist nation” on many different occasions, and the phrasing tells us that he sees the country and its people in only the most simplistic and negative terms. His hard-line advisers and allies have exploited that to get him to do whatever they want against Iran, and it isn’t hard to imagine how they would likewise talk him into further escalations in the future.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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