Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi travelled to Iran on April 6 as the US was preparing to label the IRGC a terrorist group. “It comes right on the heels of President Hassan Rouhani’s trip to Baghdad last month and the two neighbors’ pledge to boost the already flowering trade to $20 billion in two years from $12 billion today,” noted Press TV.
As Seth J. Frantzman noted on March 29 at The Hill, Iran wants the US out of Iraq. It has sought to out maneuver the US in recent months. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei called for US troops to leave Iraq in meetings with the Iraqi leader. Iran also indicated it might “end the calm” for US troops if the IRGC was designated.
Nevertheless on Monday the US proceeded and labelled the IRGC. Iran has many ways to seek to pressure the US and its allies, from Afghanistan to Iraq and Syria, and even by heating up conflict with Israel. Currently the goal of Iran’s foreign minister has been to try to tie the IRGC designation to Trump’s support of Netanyahu.
Details of how it unfolded.
Iranian Major General Mohammed Ali Jafari warned that US troops could be targets in response to reports that the US would list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a designated terrorist organization. Jafari is the head of the IRGC.
“If the Americans make such a silly move and endanger our national security, we will implement and put reciprocal measures on our agenda based on the policies of Iran’s Islamic establishment,” Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said on Sunday.
Jafari made the threat on Sunday, stating that the US forces in “West Asia” by which he meant parts of the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iran’s near abroad. “If the Americans take such a stubborn measure and endanger our national security we will put in place counter-measures in line with the police of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said. Under those circumstances, US forces would no longer be safe in the region, he said, using the word “no longer enjoy calm,” as a veiled threat.
“We must help the people of Iran get back their freedom,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Monday, announcing the designation. Iran was quick to respond, with officials asserting that it was the US whose track record is in fact “arming, supporting and harboring terrorist groups,” Iran’s judiciary head said. The Iranian National Security Council, according too Tasnim news, said that unlike the US and its allies, which “fuel extremism,” Iran has confronted terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State. It claimed that the US government was the one that was “implementing terrorist policies” and that the US and its regional Central Command were “terrorists.” Other Iranian media ran similar statements. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif followed the Tehran talking points about labelling the US and its CENTCOM forces “terrorists.”
The Iran regime narrative today seeks to fuel the debate in the US and the West by spreading stories linking IRGC designation to Israel in English language tweets and media. For instance in Farsi at Iranian media websites such as Tasnim, there is no mention of Israel on April 9. But Press TV, the English language Iranian channel, has two articles focusing on Israel and the IRGC decision. One looks at Palestinian groups slamming the IRGC decision while the other argues that the designation “stems from the US and Israeli regime’s anger over the elite military force’s power and success in foiling their plots in the region.”
Following in Zarif’s footsteps, Defense Minister Amir Hatami praised the IRGC and condemned the Us and “the Zionist regime.”