Trump, with the glowing approval of both national security advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has now designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organisation. In a symbolic retaliation, the Iranian government in turn declared the United States Central Command a terrorist organisation, and President Rouhani made a statement calling the US a major sponsor of terrorism. And round and round we go.
Both the Pentagon and the CIA protested this move, saying that it could likely put US soldier’s and contractors at risk in the region, but the change went ahead anyway. But there are a number of reasons that calling the IRGC a terror group is useful for the US, or at least certain members of the Trump administration, notably Trump himself.
The first is destroying Obama’s legacy, as immemorable as it was, and leaving the two nations in “Permanent State of Enmity”. The US has already pulled out of what was called the Iran Deal which, under Obama, was designed to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons. Sanctions against Iran were lifted, and the US has worked (through the Iraqis) with Iran in the battle against ISIS. The IRGC was one of the first groups to aid Iraq when ISIS launched into power after the US left a power vacuum in the region.
The sanctions have now been reimposed – which has caused issues in Iran, as they are now experiencing heavy flooding – and any attempt to revert any of the actions carried out in the last two years, as Trita Parsi says in his interview with Democracy Now! (linked above) will have heavy consequences politically for whichever future administration tries to do it.
The second is Trump’s relations with the Israeli and Saudi Arabian governments. Both Netanyahu and MBS have tense relations with Iran, and Israel has been accusing Iran of backing terrorism for years. Netanyahu even tweeted his thanks to the US for finally calling the IRGC a terrorist organisation; this move, along with the US acknowledgement of the Golan Heights being Israeli territory (it is really annexed Syrian territory), may well help the scandal ridden, racist Prime Minister win yet another damning term in the Israeli elections this week.
Trump has had a habit of literally selling his administration’s foreign policy, and taking a more hostile approach against Iran is helpful to his allies. It is also problematic for his enemies, such as the Syrian government, Russia (why do people think Putin controls Trump again?), and obviously Iran itself.
The last reason, that Parsi touched on but that I had deduced before I saw that article, was the war in Syria. There has been a recurring pattern since Trump gained office regarding the US presence in Syria, and that is the elusive promise of leaving. In 2017 and 2018, Trump announced that troops would be pulled out of the country, and both times spurious charges of chemical weapons attacks, supposedly carried out by Assad’s regime, caused a backlash that the US just had to attend to. ISIS was also a persistent concern, although ironically the IRGC, the Syrian government (with Russian backing), and the Kurdish forces were the core fighters against the terror group.
With ISIS ‘defeated’ however, despite remnants still plaguing the countryside, the possibility of leaving was yet again peeking through the smoke and rubble. And like clockwork, another terrorist group has magically appeared in Syria – that pesky IRGC. Up to 11 million people, according to Parsi, spanning the Middle East could be caught up in this. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, even Palestine and Yemen – all of them are now potential victims about to be swept up in another US imperialist policy orgy.
With the IRGC operating in Syria, both in an anti-ISIS capacity and possibly near the Golan Heights border and in Lebanon, the US can ‘justify’ keeping their troops in the country for yet another year. It is laughably predictable, although this time it isn’t just Syrians suffering – Iran is becoming increasingly isolated, and Israel bolder in its own colonial expansion.
The greatest irony in all of this, that Parsi points out, is how it’s sort of unifying Iran’s factions. The population, and even the government, have had issue with the IRGC, with the government trying to rein them in and the populace calling for a more democratic society. But in the face of such a hostile and militaristically superior enemy, that energy (as all (historical) nationalistic movements tend to) is being pointed towards an external force, in this case the US and Israel.
Obama was no saint, but when it came to Iran the direction was at least facilitating peace. Now, Trump’s recklessness has pitted the two nations against each other by, for the first time ever, calling an arm of another nation’s institutions a terrorist organisation. No doubt there are numerous criticisms to be made of the IRGC, and indeed the Iranian government, but they are right on one count at least:
The US is a major sponsor of global terrorism.
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