Trump Gives Hard-liners Whatever They Want
As expected, the Trump administration has designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization:
The Trump administration on Monday designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, escalating the U.S. pressure campaign against Tehran and marking the first time an element of a foreign state has been officially designated a terrorist entity.
Over the weekend, Iranian officials made it clear that they would respond in kind and apply a similar designation to U.S. forces. There is an obvious danger that this decision could lead to armed conflict between U.S. forces and Iranian-backed militias and proxies, but the designation could have other unexpected consequences that go beyond U.S.-Iranian relations. The precedent set by labeling part of another government’s military as terrorists not only makes it more likely that our military personnel will be subjected to similar treatment, but it also blurs the definition of what constitutes a terrorist organization. Labeling the entire IRGC as a terrorist organization is inaccurate and it continues a trend of using the label of terrorist to mean “something that we don’t like and want to punish.” The Iranian conscripts who are required to serve in the IRGC are obviously not terrorists according to any sane definition of the word, but this designation means that the U.S. will now treat them as if they are. The Trump administration keeps finding new and irresponsible ways to drive the regime and the people together and to make conflict between the U.S. and Iran more likely. U.S.-Iranian tensions are now set to increase with no clear path for de-escalation.
Richard Nephew comments on the decision:
Well, advocates can celebrate but this will not meaningfully add to pressure and certainly meaningfully adds to risk. But, the real story here is the not-so-hidden-motivation: toxifying the relationship so that it is impossible to negotiate with the IRI in the future. https://t.co/Je3T8BtR7P
— Richard Nephew (@RichardMNephew) April 8, 2019
Once again, Trump has given the most hard-line Iran hawks exactly what they want. This has become an unmistakable pattern in Trump’s foreign policy decisions. When push comes to shove, the president indulges the hard-liners in and around his administration without any regard for the consequences. Designating the IRGC has been on their wish list for years because they want to ratchet up tensions with Iran and make diplomatic engagement impossible. As Nephew mentioned, the designation will further poison the relationship with Iran and make it so that no Iranian leader will be able to negotiate with the U.S. on anything. That leaves the Americans wrongfully detained in Iran in a very precarious position, and it puts the U.S. and Iran in new and dangerous territory that will make it harder to avoid escalation and conflict. Seyed Hossein Mousavian warned of the dangers of this decision yesterday:
IRGC has been the most successful military unit in fighting ISIS& Al-Qaeda. US move to designate it as a FTO is unprecedented& will propel US-Iranian relations to the point of no return; will destroy any chances of cooperation in the ME;A bad mistake with irreparable consequences
— Mousavian (@hmousavian) April 7, 2019
We have to hope that this assessment is wrong, but I fear that it isn’t.
Update: Iran has reacted quickly to the decision with its own move to designate U.S. forces in the region.
Second Update: Mohammad Ali Shabani has written an important and informative thread on the implications of this decision, including the effect it will have on lots of ordinary Iranians and Iranian-Americans:
It gets even more twisted since to be allowed to exit Iran, you either need to have done your military service or been exempt from it. So we're talking about potential of 1000s of *Iranian-Americans* + Iranian students possibly having become "criminals" overnight.
— Mohammad Ali Shabani (@mashabani) April 8, 2019
Third Update: Narges Bajoghli comments on the decision:
Historically logic of colonial power enacted via law.Banning Iranians w MuslimBan + ditching IranDeal + harsh sanctions + designating IRGC terrorist org (which young men have mandatory service)=criminalizing an entire population. The inevitable solution is punish w domination/war
— Narges Bajoghli (@nargesbajoghli) April 8, 2019