Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 July 2019

Iran's Khamenei calls US blacklisting of Guards a 'vicious move'

President Hassan Rouhani also defended the corps as protectors of Iran, saying that the US 'holds a grudge' against them

An Iranian man reads a newspaper with a pictures of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and US President Donald Trump on its front page in Tehran, Iran, 9 April 2019. EPA
An Iranian man reads a newspaper with a pictures of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and US President Donald Trump on its front page in Tehran, Iran, 9 April 2019. EPA

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the US made "a vicious move" by designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organisation, and Tehran has threatened to take action against American forces in the region.

Mr Khamenei, who controls the IRGC, said the US was plotting against the "defenders" of the 1979 revolution.

"In spite of all the pressure over the past 40 years, Americans have failed to do a thing and their vicious move will bear no fruit," he told state media.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also defended the corps and said in a televised speech that the US "holds a grudge" against the IRGC, who have served the interests of Iran.

The IRGC is estimated to have 125,000 personnel in its army, navy and air units, and it also commands the Basij, a religious volunteer paramilitary force, as well as controlling Iran's ballistic missile programmes.

The Quds Force, the IRGC's overseas unit, has fought Iran's proxy wars in the Middle East.

The US had blacklisted dozens of entities and people with affiliations to the IRGC already, but until now had not designated the organisation as a whole as a terrorist group.

Maj Gen Mohammad Al Jafari, commander-in-chief of the corps, dismissed Washington's decision and said it would not diminish the IRGC's military capabilities.

"This US move was quite laughable because the Revolutionary Guards are in people's hearts," he told the state broadcaster.

"The Revolutionary Guards will increase their defensive and offensive capabilities in the coming year."

Relations between Tehran and Washington became more strained in May last year when US President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions.

Tehran retaliated by naming the US Central Command as a terrorist organisation, and the US government as a sponsor of terror.

The Iranian Armed Forces' general staff, Iran's most senior military body that also oversees the IRGC, said it would "use all its means to fight" against US Central Command.

On Tuesday, an IRGC commander warned the US Navy to keep its distance from Iranian ships.

"Mr Trump, tell your warships not to pass near the Revolutionary Guards' boats," Mohsen Rezaei said in a tweet.

Saudi Arabia welcomed the US action, but Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said it "could have negative repercussions on Iraq and the region".

Mr Abdul Mahdi said Baghdad tried to convince Washington not to make the designation and insisted that Iraq would work to bring calm to the region.

Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan told Fox News on Tuesday that listing the IRGC as a terrorist group was a policy decision designed to have non-military effects, such as putting pressure on Iran's economy.

"We’re going to continue to work in Iraq to strengthen security forces," Mr Shanahan said. "We recognise Iraq’s sovereignty. It’s our role in the country to build security and we’ll continue to do that."

Turkey also voiced concerns that the decision could lead to instability in the region, while France called for steps to be taken to ensure calm in the Middle East.

IRGC commanders have said repeatedly that US bases in the Middle East and US aircraft carriers in the Gulf are within range of Iranian missiles.

Tehran has also threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz, if the US tried to harm Iran's economy by halting its exports.

Updated: April 10, 2019 09:12 AM

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