Will Trump’s administration designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a Terrorist Group?

Several U.S. government agencies were consulted about this proposal. Its implementation will impose additional  measures to those the United States has already imposed on individuals and entities linked to the IRGC, the officials said.

Iran’s most powerful security entity, the IRGC also has control over large portions of Iran’s economy and great influence on its political system.

Reuters didn’t see a copy of the proposal, which may come in the form of an executive order directing the State Department to consider designating the IRGC as a terrorist group. 

Whether Trump would sign such an order is unclear.  The White House hasn’t responded to a request for comment. 

Iran denies its involvement in terrorism.

Draft orders on several other topics have circulated among U.S. agencies, but were rejected or postponed by the Trump administration. Last week Reuters reported that officials were debating whether to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, but the decision about that seems to have been indefinitely postponed.

Trump’s more hardline advisors have been urging him to increase sanctions on Iran since his administration began. Calling the tightening of sanctions against Iran last week in response to a ballistic missile test, an “initial” step, White House officials said U.S. Gulf allies have long favored a tougher U.S. stance against Iran, whom they blame for regional interference. 

Dozens of entities and people for affiliations with the IRGC have already been blacklisted by the United States. The U.S. Treasury designated the IRGC’s Quds Force, the unit in charge of its operations abroad in 2007, “for its support of terrorism,” and has said it is Iran’s “primary arm for executing its policy of supporting terrorist and insurgent groups.”

Designating the entire IRGC as a terrorist group would have much broader implications, as it would include  the 2015 Nuclear Deal between Iran, the United States, and other major world powers. It’s already been criticized by Trump and Republicans in Congress for giving Iran too much and not placing tight enough restrictions on the country. 

Reuters reported last week that the IRGC designation is “among the proposals being considered as part of an Iran policy review in the Trump administration” in an effort to dissuade foreign investment in Iran’s economy, due to the IRGC’s involvement in major sectors including transportation and oil. That involvement is, in many cases, hidden behind layers of opaque ownership.

 “The new administration regards Iran as the clearest danger to U.S. interests, and they’ve been looking for ways to turn up the heat,” said a senior U.S. official who has been involved in what he called a broad review of Iran policy.

Rather than tearing up the nuclear agreement, a step he said even Israel and Saudi Arabia oppose, the official said that the White House might instead punish Iran for its support for Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, and some Shiite forces in Iraq, as well as covert support for Shiites who oppose the Sunni regime in Bahrain, and cyber attacks on Saudi and other Gulf Arab targets.

U.S. sanctions presently include penalties for foreign companies who knowingly conducting “significant” transactions with the Revolutionary Guards, or other sanctioned Iranian entities. Still, the Revolutionary Guards have an interest in, or own, many companies that are not blacklisted, and have been able to sign foreign deals. The fine print of existing U.S. sanctions allows foreign companies to continue to deal with some IRGC-held firms indirectly, sanctions lawyers say.