It’s Official!

The idea that the military of a foreign government could be labelled as a terrorist organization, which the New York Times reports is being considered by the Bush Administration:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 14 — The Bush administration is preparing to declare that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps is a foreign terrorist organization, senior administration officials said Tuesday.

If imposed, the declaration would signal a more confrontational turn in the administration’s approach to Iran and would be the first time that the United States has added the armed forces of any sovereign government to its list of terrorist organizations.

The Revolutionary Guard is thought to be the largest branch of Iran’s military. While the United States has long labeled Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, a decision to single out the guard would amount to an aggressive new challenge from an American administration that has recently seemed conflicted over whether to take a harder line against Tehran over its nuclear program and what American officials have called its destabilizing role in Iraq.

has got practically everybody baffled.

Cernig at The Newshoggers is highly critical of the idea:

Such a move also changes the playing field when it comes to producing evidence of alleged IRG meddling. Which is good for the White house because the evidence they have provided to date is slim, constantly changing its basic claims and often based entirely on hearsay, guesses or suspect interrogation methods. Instead of having to convince an entire international coalition and the UN that a formal war between nation-states is required, Bush can simply strike “terrorists” (a “police action”, not a war) and ignore any cries of illegality under international law.

Rick Moran doesn’t find it surprising and believes it’s yet another step towards the Bush Administration’s intended goal of military action against Iran:

I don’t think there is much doubt that this Administration has decided that if they can’t get satisfaction on Iraq and the nukes, then there will be some kind of military action taken against the Iranian regime. It appears that there has been a concerted effort over the last couple of months to point the finger at Iranian interference in Iraq. It has all the earmarks of a public relations campaign to sell the idea that the Iranians are killing Americans by supporting some Shia militias with arms and explosive devices.

Rick and I are in agreement that the use of force against Iran is a very bad one, indeed, however, I’m not as convinced as Rick is that’s what it all means.

I honestly don’t know what it means. IIRC whatever there might be in the way of Iranian assets in U. S. are already pretty well tied up. Could this be a move to enable the U. S. government to take action against foreign banks doing business with the IRG?

9 comments… add one
  • I’m speculating here, but the new policy might give the administration more legal justification for more aggressive operations against IRGC agents in Iraq and other places.

  • After reading the WAPO story it looks like it’s still focused on financial and business interests. The IRGC is THE covert moneymaker for the Iranian government – they were the ones who smuggled Iraqi oil through their territorial waters before OIF, for example. They’re also heavily involved in a number of criminal enterprises. Perhaps some of these areas do not fall under the general sanctions regime against Iran.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Note that in some of the news reports, the administration is considering limiting its label to the Qods forces, which is the branch of the Guard that one could easily label a terrorist organization, but AFAIK is not in charge of the nuclear program. It seems to me that a focus on Qods would suggest more of a soft power approach.

  • PD Shaw Link

    Another point, it seems to me that there is a minority view that the Guard is not completely responsive to the will of the state, has acted on its own independent initiative in the past and may increasingly do so. This raises issues of the viability of traditional notions of state on state deterrence. I don’t know how the proposed policy would address that issue, but it seems to place its thumb on it.

    “What Was Once a Revolutionary Guard Is Now Just a Mafia”:

  • PD Shaw Link

    Counterterrorism blog points out some of the limitations and loopholes of the current sanctions regime and how the designation could be used as a step towards tightening those sanctions.

    Also of interest was the possibility that foreign companies doing business with the Guard and in the U.S. could face civil liability from the victims of terrorism.

  • My understanding is that the IRGC has commercial operations as well as their paramilitary and military operations, and that this designation would hurt those commercial operations quite a bit. It’s also possible that this is entirely a leak designed to change behavior without ever implementing the leaked policy. Sometimes, it’s useful to show a stick to the enemy, even if you don’t intend to hit him with it. (And yes, I consider Iran under the theocracy to be an enemy of the US. Which is ironic, since without the theocracy, I think that we would be natural allies to the Iranians.)

  • Damn, Dave, I thought you’d have an explanation. I’m baffled.

  • If it were the Clinton Adminstration, I’d have an explanation. It strikes me as a very lawyerly approach to a problem. Then, again, perhaps this is characteristic of the Bush Administration. Could they be approaching a seemingly intractable problem by redefining it?

    That’s been a fairly common MBA strategy for this administration. Changing the definition by aggregation or disaggregation.

    My kneejerk reaction is that the end of the world, headlong rush to Armageddon explanations are overblown.

  • Rob Link

    One of the few constructive ways out of the current conflict with Iran would be to force the ruling mullas out of power. They are weak economicaly and that is where our pressure can have the most effect. This would appear to be a step in a direction that could undermine them at their most vulnerable point. If they are to be dealt with short of war this is the way.
    For internal polical reasons the mullas seek an inconclusive military conflict with the United States, these economic measures are a response that damages the extremists in Iran without giving them the military conflict they are trying to provoke.

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