TEHRAN - Iran's Revolutionary Guards Thursday dismissed US plans to list the elite force as a terror group in order to strangle its growing economic power, warning that its "iron will" would not be deterred.
A US official revealed on Wednesday that President George W. Bush was set to issue an executive order blacklisting the group in order to block the assets of what is one of the Islamic republic's key institutions.
The Revolutionary Guards -- whose influence extends well beyond the military into business and politics -- would be the first national military branch included on a US list of individuals and institutions linked to terrorism.
"The identity of the Guards has terrified the enemies of this system and the revolution," the Guards replied in a defiant statement carried by the official IRNA news agency.
"This has forced them to hastily find a pretext to issue superficial measures in a bid to hurt this sacred body."
In a warning to Western powers, it added: "Those who are absorbed by the world's materialism cannot understand the depth of the spiritual power and iron will of the Revolutionary Guards.
"The historic victory will be with the children of Islam against the world infidels," it added.
The United States accuses the Revolutionary Guards of stirring unrest in Iraq and supplying bombs for deadly attacks on US troops and is seeking to cut off the force's financial lifeblood with the measure.
As well as being an elite military force with tens of thousands of troops, the Guards has been successful in picking up billion-dollar contracts for building infrastructure in Iran.
In 2006, the Guards won a 2.09 billion dollar contract to develop phases 15 and 16 of Iran's biggest gas field, South Pars, and a 1.3 billion dollar deal to build a pipeline to Pakistan.
The Revolutionary Guards is also at the centre of Iran's politics -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a former officer and has promoted several former Guards members to top posts since taking office in 2005.
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The United States has never ruled out military action against Iran over its controversial nuclear programme, and a top regional commander issued a stark warning to Washington against making such a move.
"If the sworn enemy of the revolution wants to have any military provocation in the Persian Gulf against Iran's borders then the Persian Gulf will be come a hell for them," said naval commander Ali Razmjou.
The US administration's intentions were revealed late on Wednesday by a US government official but have yet to be officially announced.
The State Department declined to give details of the planned action, saying it would not divulge "anything that may be actively under consideration."
Amid mixed US reactions to the plan, The New York Times denounced the move as as clumsy and ill-conceived, in an editorial titled "Amateur hour on Iran".
"The dangers posed by Iran are serious, and America needs to respond with serious policies, not more theatrics," the newspaper wrote.
Iran has already been on the US government state sponsors of terrorism blacklist for more than two decades.
There are currently about 42 organisations, including the Al-Qaeda terror network, on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organisations.
Washington has so far linked the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force -- in charge of covert operations -- to the growing flow of weapons to Shiite militias in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
US forces have also arrested five Iranian officials in northern Iraq on accusations of being members of the Quds force on a mission to stir trouble in the conflict-torn country.
However, Iran vehemently rejects the charges of interference in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying the presence of US troops is the biggest obstacle to restoring security. It insists the arrested men in Iraq are merely diplomats.
Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse