Iranian Revolutionary Guards: Terrorists in Disguise

The Washington Post reports that the ‘United States has decided to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country’s 125,000-strong elite military branch, as a “specially designated global terrorist,” according to U.S. officials, a move that allows Washington to target the group’s business operations and finances.’

The reason? Iran’s constant and increased meddling in Iraq, Afghanistan and, well, the entire the Middle East for that matter. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is helping out terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah: with training, knowledge, and equipment. Seemingly, the US has had enough and has, therefore, decided to label the private militant group of the Mullahs terrorists.

Why is this significant? The WaPo explains:

The designation of the Revolutionary Guard will be made under Executive Order 13224, which President Bush signed two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to obstruct terrorist funding. It authorizes the United States to identify individuals, businesses, charities and extremist groups engaged in terrorist activities. The Revolutionary Guard would be the first national military branch included on the list, U.S. officials said — a highly unusual move because it is part of a government, rather than a typical non-state terrorist organization.

The order allows the United States to block the assets of terrorists and to disrupt operations by foreign businesses that “provide support, services or assistance to, or otherwise associate with, terrorists.”

In other words, the US can attempt to make sure that the Revolutionary Guard does not get any money - or at least as little as possible. Of course, considering that the Revolutionary Guard is headed by the leaders in Tehran, it means that the US will make it official that Iran uses terrorism as a foreign policy. We all know this to be true, but there is a difference between knowing something and making it official (policy).

A ‘U.S. official familiar with the plan who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the decision has not been announced,’ explained: “Anyone doing business with these people will have to reevaluate their actions immediately. It increases the risks of people who have until now ignored the growing list of sanctions against the Iranians. It makes clear to everyone who the IRGC and their related businesses really are. It removes the excuses for doing business with these people.”

We can be sure that Tehran will not be happy with it and that the rhetoric will escalate. The financial tricks, however, the US has to fight terrorism have proven to pay off. Iran can say all it wants, the Revolutionary Guard can object all it wants, but it will suffer significantly financially. As Ed Morrissey explains at Captain’s Quarters, “it’s a brilliant escalation of the economic battle that the Bush administration has waged against the Iranians. They already have staggered under the weight of international sanctions. Now their businessmen and their partners abroad will face even more pressure, and that will eventually erode the Iranian economy even further — and the hardliner’s position will become more tenuous than ever.”

With Ed, however, I believe that it is not as simple as that. There is also a problem: “Under the Geneva Convention, the IRG fits the definition of a legitimate military force. They wear uniforms, and answer to legitimate government authority. While the Quds force undeniably works outside of those boundaries to perpetuate terrorism, the IRG as a whole has more plausible deniability.

What happens when we start labeling uniformed military as terrorist organizations?”

Although I think the move might make sense in a way, it seems to me that we cannot label armies, legitimate armies, terrorist organizations. Once we do that, the line between terrorists and armies is blurred. The result can be that captured members of the revolutionary guard will not receive the same treatment members of others armies get. This could create a firestorm and a domino effect, not to mention global outrage. Like it or not, the Revolutionary Guard is a legitimate army - not a terrorist organization (as Ed points out, one of the main differences is that RG members wear, here it comes, uniforms). They are recognizeable, they are easily identifiable… They are soldiers, not terrorists, no matter how badly they may behave.