Foreign policy observers said the Trump administration is sowing the seeds of war on Monday after it designated Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard a "foreign terrorist organization."
The new desingation for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told media, "an important step to counter the Iranian regime's terrorism." The IRGC, which is a branch of the country's armed forces, merely "masquerades as a legitimate military organization," he added.
The White House acknowledged that it was an "unprecedented" move, as it's the first time the U.S. has ever slapped the designation on part of another government.
The IRGC, as ABC News explained,
is already designated as a terrorist entity under the U.S. Treasury Department—a move that President Trump made in October 2018. Designating the IRGC on the State Department's foreign terrorist organization does not impose additional economic penalties, but it makes it a federal crime to do business with the IRGC or its leadership.
The New York Times also reported:
Top Pentagon and C.I.A. officials oppose the designation, which they argue would allow hard-line Iranian officials to justify deadly operations against Americans overseas, especially Special Operations units and paramilitary units working under the C.I.A.
An interagency lawyers group concluded the designation was too broad, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, pushed for it, said a Trump administration official.
On Twitter, Pompeo's Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, suggested that neocons like Bolton were behind the move, and that it served as gift to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
A(nother) misguided election-eve gift to Netanyahu. A(nother) dangerous U.S. misadventure in the region.— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) April 8, 2019
#NetanyahuFirsters who have long agitated for FTO designation of the IRGC fully understand its consequences for US forces in the region. In fact, they seek to drag US into a quagmire on his behalf.@realDonaldTrump should know better than to be conned into another US disaster. pic.twitter.com/i4bcfgxybT— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) April 7, 2019
The move was indeed noted by Netanyahu:
Thank you, President @realDonaldTrump for your decision to designate the Islamic revolutionary guards as a terrorist organization.— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) April 8, 2019
Once again you are keeping the world safe from Iran aggression and terrorism.
Not only does the move "it much harder to forge a peace with Iran," said journalist Glenn Greenwald, it also provides "evidence that maniacs like Bolton & David Friedman are dominant."
Greenwald wasn't alone in that assessment. Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), called the new designation "a well-advertised step in the playbook of Washington hawks who seek to provoke Iran into leaving the nuclear deal and sow the seeds of an eventual military conflict with Iran."
And this should send a urgent message to lawmakers, he said.
"Trump's team clearly sees the clock on their Iran agenda expiring—which makes their approach ever more escalatory and dangerous," Abdi added. "There is an urgent need for Congress to rein Trump in on Iran before he can start a war that will devastate the U.S., Iran, and the Middle East for generations to come."
In a Twitter thread, author and NIAC founder Trita Parsi said the development would "close yet another potential door for peacefully resolving tensions with Iran. Once all doors are closed, and diplomacy is rendered impossible, war will essentially become inevitable."