U.S. in 'unprecedented move' designates Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation

Iranian Revolutionary Guard members arrive for a ceremony celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution at the Azadi or Freedom Square in Tehran Iran Monday Feb. 11 2019

President Trump designated Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organisation yesterday as he ratchets up the pressure on Tehran.

USA officials said the terrorist label, which takes effect on April 15, would make it a criminal offense in the United States to provide "material support" to the Revolutionary Guards, with violators subject to up to 20 years in prison.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has pushed for the change in USA policy as part of the Trump administration's tough stance toward Tehran.

Iran's parliament has vowed to retaliate by passing an urgent bill putting American troops on its own terrorism blacklist, which already features the jihadist Islamic State group, the semi-official news agency ISNA reported.

Critics have warned that the move could open U.S. military and intelligence officials to similar actions by unfriendly governments. While the accord does not specifically ban those tests, USA officials have said they violate the spirit of the deal.

The announcement comes shortly before the first anniversary of Trump's decision to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and to reimpose sanctions that had crippled Iran's economy.

Iran swiftly followed suit, labelling the USA military a terrorist organisation, according to state television.

The IRGC designation was warmly welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is up for reelection on Tuesday and who tweeted "Thank you, my dear friend, U.S. President Donald Trump. for meeting another of my important requests".

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is battling for political survival in Tuesday's elections, cheered the United States move.

The council blasted Washington's move as an "illegal and foolish act", and said that in response, it "declares that it considers the regime of the USA a state sponsor of terrorism and the Central Command of America, known as CENTCOM, and all forces related to it terrorist groups", the statement posted by IRNA said.

The Revolutionary Guard was created in parallel to the country's existing armed forces to consolidate power under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The move also freezes any assets the IRGC may have in the U.S.

"This action will significantly expand the scope and scale of our maximum pressure on the Iranian regime".

"As we learned last week, Iran was responsible for the deaths of over 600 USA service members during the Iraq War".

The Trump administration is preparing to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps a "foreign terrorist organization" in an unprecedented move that could have widespread implications for USA personnel and policy.

The decision came after Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged President Hassan Rohani to place CENTCOM on Tehran's list of "terrorist" groups. He claimed the move would weaken Iran's ability to promote a nuclear program and its support for terrorism.

It is the first time that the USA has designated an entity of another government as a terrorist organization, placing a group with vast economic resources that answers only to Iran's supreme leader in the same category as al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

With an estimated 125,000 personnel, comprised of army, navy and air units, the force is Iran's most powerful security organisation. Tehran has warned that it has missiles with a range of up to 2,000 km (1,242 miles), putting Israel and U.S. military bases in the region within reach. "If they make a stupid move as such and endanger out national security, a reciprocal move will be placed on our agenda and then put into operation based on the policies of the Establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran".

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