The United States and Iran have been lobbing threats, fighting proxy wars, and imposing sanctions for decades. USA Today looks at over 60 years of this back-and-forth.
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The Trump administration designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps a foreign terrorist organization in a move that reflects Washington’s increasingly aggressive stance toward Tehran and that could have implications for the U.S. military.
It is the first time the U.S. has formally labelled another country’s military a terrorist group. Monday’s action follows a months-long escalation of Washington’s rhetoric against the Islamic Republic after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear accord last year and reimposed sanctions that crippled its economy.
The move is intended to put pressure on the financial assets of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, or IRGC, a powerful security organization founded in the aftermath of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. It has a vast political and economic power base that extends to Iran’s armed forces, as well as its strategic industries from oil to agriculture.
The IRGC also presides over Iran’s ballistic missiles and nuclear programs.
“This action sends a clear message to Tehran that its support for terrorism has serious consequences. We will continue to increase financial pressure and raise the costs on the Iranian regime for its support of terrorist activity until it abandons its malign and outlaw behavior,” Trump said in a statement released by the White House.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, are Iran hawks who prior to joining Trump’s inner circle for years called for regime change in Iran, which they blame for most of the problems in the Middle East.
Designating the IRGC a terror group has been rumored for years because of its support for militant groups across the region, from Lebanon to Syria.
Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia have remained in the nuclear deal with Iran, which tightly restricted Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in return for ending sanctions.
The Trump administration has demanded that the other signatories to the nuclear accord exit the deal. But those countries have largely ignored U.S. demands and sought ways to keep open trade and financial dealings with Iran despite the renewed American sanctions.
Over the weekend, Iran said that if the IRGC was designated a terrorist organization by Washington it would consider placing the U.S. military on a terror list of its own.
“We will put (the U.S.) on the terror blacklist next to Daesh,” Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the head of the Iranian parliament’s national security committee, said Saturday on Twitter, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
The U.S. Department of Treasury previously blacklisted Iranian entities and people for their affiliations with the IRGC. The group as a whole has not been described this way.
“A formal designation and its consequences may be new, but these IRGC butchers have been terrorists for a long time,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.). “This (is) an important step in our maximum-pressure campaign against Iran, the largest state-sponsor of terror and the biggest chaos agent inside the Middle East.”
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