President Trump has decided to impose crippling sanctions on Iran’s notorious Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
So why did he decide to go after the IRGC? It's what keeps Iran's theocratic regime in place. They are the Ayatollah's loyal foot soldiers. The Guards control Iran's nuclear development, ballistic missile program, energy supplies, and terrorist activities.
The IRGC is not just a local conscript army. It is tasked with both protecting Iran’s Islamic theocracy and exporting the regime’s fundamentalist ideology worldwide.
Since 1979, the jihadist outfit has frequently used military force in foreign lands to achieve its ends and appoint government bodies and leadership subservient to Iran. It is essentially the Shiite version of al-Qaeda, except that it has state backing.
While seeking caliphatist goals, the Revolutionary Guard has a long history of attacking Americans directly. U.S. officials have said that the IRGC and its proxies are responsible for the importation of armor-piercing explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) into Iraq. These bombs have taken the lives of approximately 500 U.S. service members in Iraq, according to military officials.
The IRGC is also responsible for training and arming Iranian proxy groups such as Hezbollah, which carried out the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon that killed 241 American soldiers.
And a senior IRGC operative was behind the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, which took the lives of 19 U.S. personnel.
Not only does the IRGC attack Americans, its regional tentacles have set the Middle East ablaze. The IRGC is operating either clandestinely or openly in several countries. The corps currently has assets fighting in Syria for the Assad regime, operations in Iraq, trains and aids Hezbollah militants, and provides weapons and aid to terrorists seeking the destruction of Israel and the Kurds.
Recognizing the aforementioned atrocities, President Trump directed the Treasury Department to sanction the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its role in supporting terrorist activities. For the first time, the IRGC – and not just its sub groups – is now sanctioned as an entire entity.
To be clear, this is not the same as the State Department designating the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). However, there is plenty that can be done to damage the IRGC under Treasury sanctions.
Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies explains that, under the post 9-11 Executive Order 13224, it “gives the administration the authority to freeze the assets of individuals or groups that either carry out terrorist acts or are at risk of doing so.”
Dubowitz adds: “Trump could apply this order to the guards and their supporters and shut them out of the global financial and commercial markets. Bush used this authority in 2007 to block the assets of the [IRGC’s] Quds Force after it provided material support to Hezbollah, the Taliban, and three Palestinian terrorist groups.”
Thanks to former President Barack Obama’s Iran deal, the newly cash-flush Iran was able to boost the IRGC’s budget by a reported 55 percent. That’s why sanctioning the group is essential to quashing its global influence.
It’s unclear why President Trump has chosen to utilize sanctions instead of the FTO designation.Given the frequent off-message positioning of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, it may have been more efficient for Trump to utilize the Treasury Department to keep Iran in check.
Tillerson said on the record Thursday night, hours before Trump’s speech, that the president would not be designating the IRGC as a whole, but would only be targeting select individuals and groups. That turned out not to be the case.
These sanctions, if prosecuted correctly, can have as big an impact in curbing Iran as the Iran nuclear deal had in rejuvenating Tehran.
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Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.
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