Today, all Gulf states recognise the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as the most prominent threat and the main factor of instability in the region.
IRGC’s destabilising activities can be divided into the following sections:
- Increased support for sectarian warfare between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims
- Support of terrorist groups such as the Badr Organisation and Al-Hashad Al-Sha’abi in Iraq, Ansar Allah in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
- Training militants to carry out terrorist attacks.
- Dispatching forces and mercenaries to Syria to fight for the Assad regime that is using chemical attacks against civilians.
- Create security challenges for the U.S. forces in Persian Gulf.
- Missile programme and threat of annihilating Israel.
It is a known fact that to achieve its goals and secure Tehran’s hegemony in the region, the IRGC even attempts to physically eliminate any opposition. For example, in 2005, former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri was assassinated by Hezbollah, leading to years of political crisis in the country. Although Hezbollah emerged as a power factor in Lebanon, the IRGC was not satisfied and hence encouraged the known terrorist group to attack Israel in 2006.
Overall, it is worth pointing out that basically a large part of the IRGC annual budget is allocated to instigating crises and malign influence across the Middle East. The rest goes to solidifying the theocracy’s grip on power in Iran and to crackdown on popular dissent in the country to prevent popular uprisings.
On IRGC’s malign influence in the region, it is enough to note that last year Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah announced the group receives full financial and arms support from Iran.
“Hezbollah’s budget, its income and all its weapons come from the Islamic republic of Iran,” he admitted in a speech. Further evidence in this regard is provided by the transfer of weapons to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, which has caused a domestic war and human disaster.
An integral part of IRGC’s responsibility is training foreign fighters to dispatch them to other countries such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, etc; or to carry out attacks similar to the 1994 AMIA bombing in Argentina.
Recently, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an Iranian opposition group exposed that the IRGC has launched camps inside Iran to train foreign fighters for the abovementioned objectives.
Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, the IRGC has dispatched its members and proxy militias from various countries, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, to fight for the Assad regime. In fact, if the IRGC had not intervened in Syria’s domestic war Bashar al-Assad would have been overthrown several years ago.
The killing of a large number of IRGC’s senior officials and commanders in Syria indicates the depth of its involvement in the country.
In spite of international condemnation over the recent use of chemical weapons by Assad, the IRGC undoubtedly plays an effective role in encouraging Assad’s regime to use such prohibited weapons to create an atmosphere of terror and to eliminate his opposition.
Although not extensively reported, the IRGC poses a direct threat to international trade and economy through raising the risk of military conflict in the Persian Gulf and threat of blocking the Strait of Hormuz. The on-going missile programme is the IRGC’s main tool to realise these threats. The disastrous nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, helped the IRGC develop its missile programme by using billions of dollars, which Tehran received as a result of the JCPOA.
What if IRGC is Designated a Terrorist Organisation?
Firstly, all IRGC’s financial sources will be blocked. This means the IRGC will not be able to maintain its destabilising activities, including the missile programme as well as supporting terrorist groups throughout the Middle East. In other words, its abilities will be limited and curbed. Thus, IRGC’s manoeuvrability will decline dramatically.
Considering the correlations between crises in the Middle East and the IRGC’s destructive role, an appropriate response by the West and the U.S. should include the designation of the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation. Such a measure will also send a great message to the Iranian people, violently suppressed and persecuted by the IRGC, that the international community recognises their democratic aspirations and supports their fight against the mullahs’ regime.