By Hamid Bahrami
Today, a majority of the Gulf States recognise the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as the most prominent threat to the Middle East and a primary factor of instability in the region.
IRGC’s destabilising activities can be divided into the following areas:
- 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 in order to carry out terrorist attacks and to participate in urban warfare
- Dispatch of forces and mercenaries to Syria to fight for the Assad regime, which is using chemical weapons against civilians
- Creating security challenges for the U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf
- Missile programme and its threat of annihilating Israel
It is well known that to achieve its goals and secure Tehran’s hegemony in the region, the IRGC attempts to physically eliminate the opposition. For example, in Lebanon in 2005, the former prime minister Rafic Hariri was assassinated by Hezbollah, which led to several years of political crisis in the country. Although Hezbollah emerged as a power factor in Lebanon, the IRGC was not satisfied. Hence, the group encouraged the known terrorist group to attack Israel in 2006.
It is worth pointing out that a large part of the annual budget of the IRGC is allocated to the creation of crises and spreading its malign influence in 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 uprisings.
On the IRGC’s malign influence in the region, it is enough to note that last year the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, announced that the group receives full financial and arms support from Iran’s regime. “Hezbollah’s budget, its income, all weapons, come from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he admitted in a speech. Further evidence of this type of regional meddling is provided by the transfer of weapons to the Houthi rebels in Yemen, which has contributed to a domestic war and facilitated an ongoing human disaster.
An integral part of the IRGC’s responsibility is training foreign fighters in order to dispatch them to other countries, such as Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, or to carry out attacks like the AMIA bombing in Argentina during the 90s.
Recently, the NCRI, an Iranian opposition group, exposed the IRGC designed camps inside Iran to train foreign fighters for the above mentioned 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 earlier.
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 the international condemnations over the recent use of chemical weapons by Assad, the IRGC undoubtedly plays a 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 the international trade and multiple economies by raising the risk of military conflict in the Persian Gulf and its threats to block the Strait of Hormuz. Iran’s on-going missile programme is the IRGC’s main tool to realise these threats. The disastrous nuclear deal (JCPOA) helped the IRGC fund its missile programme through the billions of dollars released to Iran as part of the JCPOA.
What will happen if the IRGC is designated as a terrorist organisation?
In the first step, all of the IRGC’s financial sources will be blocked. This means that the IRGC will not be able to maintain its destabilising activities, including the missile programme, as well as supporting terrorist groups in the Middle East. In other words, its abilities will be limited and curbed. Thus, the IRGC’s manoeuvrability will decline dramatically.
Considering the correlations between the crises in the Middle East and the destructive role of IRGC, an appropriate response by the West and the U.S. should include the designation of the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation. Such move will also send an encouraging message to the Iranian people, who are being violently suppressed and persecuted by the IRGC, that the international community recognises their democratic aspirations and supports their fight against the mullah’s regime.
Freelance journalist Hamid Bahrami, was a former political prisoner in Iran. He is journalist, and a human rights and political activist.
He left Iran recently and now lives in Glasgow, Scotland.