U.S. lawmakers have called on the new administration to support designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. They cited its ongoing support of the Assad regime, where hundreds of thousands have been killed during the civil war. Residents of the former Camp Liberty came under attacks from the IRGC on a number of occasions. The lawmakers have also called for continued sanctions against the Iranian regime.
In Iran, Rouhani’s government has been eager to appear as if they are mending international fences. However, reports from inside Iran by various agencies indicate that no real political change has occurred. Executions are on the rise and human rights violations occur at an alarming rate, despite multiple calls to stop these actions by the international community and human rights organizations.
Various international leaders have noted that this “reformist-moderate” has only further strengthened the position of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). The two supposedly divergent political groups within Iran provide a pseudo-democratic government, but Khamenei holds all true power in Iran. He has the last word on national security and foreign policy matters.
The goal of the Iranian media is to make it appear as if the two camps have tensions over the nuclear deal, but this drama sways attention away from how policy is really made in Iran. Khamenei’s control over the elections occurs because he vets each and every candidate and bars anyone deemed unsuitable.
The international sanctions had taken an economic toll in Iran, including the coffers of the IRGC. Khamenei has used the nuclear deal as a way to revive the IRGC’s economic stature. It has been described as “a major force when it comes to controlling Iran’s economy. Many Iranians in and out of the country have called the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ‘Iran’s mafia’”.
“The 37-year-old experience of the destructive and murderous mullahs’ regime in my country has shown that no degree of political and economic concessions, which have been carried out at the expense of the Iranian people, have led to a change of behavior or policies of the Iranian regime either inside or outside of Iran,” said Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
International leaders, along with the Trump administration, should try to use the current nuclear deal to force Iran to abide by current international laws and standards, as well as the disbanding of the IRGC. Further, the NCRI and other organizations have indicated that the IRGC is going to have a major influence on Iranian policy. They crack down on opposition within the country, particularly religious minorities and protestors of any kind. As more foreign businesses start working with Iran again, the IRGC is also benefiting from the new revenue.
This group is also receiving a portion of Iran’s budget, while at the same time, claiming to be a terrorist force on the ground in Iraq, Syria and other parts of the Middle East. They claim to fight extremism, but instead extend Iran’s military presence into multiple countries in the region. Some nations have chosen to ignore the issue for either geopolitical or economic reasons. Other nations have felt threatened into inaction.
The IRGC is Iran’s main instrument for exporting extremism and terrorism, until the international community puts its foot down. The Trump administration is also going to try to persuade Russia to end its relationship with Iran and cooperate with the U.S. policy to counteract Iran’s influence in the region.
“It’s important to find out what are the limits of Russia’s willingness to cooperate with us with regard to Iran,” said Michael Ledeen, who served as an advisor to Michael Flynn, the national security advisor throughout the transition. Ledeen wrote a book in 2016 making the case that Iran must be defeated to win the war against terrorism.
He argues that Russia might not be the best ally in this regard. “When it is said that Russia would make an ideal partner for fighting Radical Islam, it behooves us to remember that the Russians haven’t been very effective at fighting jihadis on their own territory, and are in cahoots with the Iranians,” wrote Flynn and Ledeen. “In Syria, the two allies have loudly proclaimed they are waging war against ISIS, but in reality, the great bulk of their efforts are aimed at the opponents of the Assad regime.”
The Trump administration is going to attempt to persuade Russia to cut ties with Iran and end arms sales to the Islamic Republic. Trump has also been critical of the nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama, but he has indicated that he will not withdraw from the deal right away. Instead, he has indicated that he would like to see if it is possible to renegotiate better terms.
However, Trump has not indicated what he would be willing to offer the Russians in exchange for their support on Iran, although he has said he would be willing to consider lifting sanctions on Russia in the right circumstances. Lawmakers have also called for continued sanctions against the Iranian regime.