Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps: Iran flays EU vote over ‘terrorist’ designation

TEHRAN (Agencies): The European Parliament’s approval of a resolution calling on the bloc to consider a “terrorist” designation for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has received strong condemnation from senior Iranian officials and commanders. The European Parliament overwhelmingly approved a resolution that calls on the European Union to recognise Iran’s elite force and its subsidiaries, like the paramilitary Basij and the Quds Force, as “terrorist” organisations.

It also condemned the Iranian government’s response to the protests that have been taking place in the country since September, the executions linked to the protests, and drone sales to Russia, while also recommending sanctions against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Ebrahim Raisi and all IRGC-linked foundations.

The EU is not obliged to enforce the resolution. While senior EU politicians have voiced their support for the resolution, it is not expected to be among new sanctions on dozens of Iranian individuals and entities expected to be approved by the bloc. Response from Tehran move has ranged from defiance to warnings of consequences for Europe. IRGC commander-in-chief Hossein Salami met parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf – a former IRGC commander – early on Saturday to coordinate a potential response.

The IRGC, the foreign ministry and lawmakers are also expected to hold a closed-door meeting on Sunday. “If it wasn’t for the efforts of the IRGC, especially the Quds Force and martyr Soleimani, the terrorism volcano created by the Americans would have engulfed the Europeans and the security that prevails in Europe today would have been destroyed,” Salami said in reference to Qassem Soleimani, who was killed by a United States drone strike in Iraq in 2020.

Ghalibaf and other lawmakers have also threatened European armed forces with a “terrorist” designation. The US, which has supported the European Parliament’s proposal, has blacklisted the IRGC. The Iranian foreign ministry has responded to US and EU sanctions with sanctions of its own, many related to Soleimani’s assassination. The ministry termed the IRGC “the world’s largest counterterrorism institution” while claiming a potential designation of the force – which is an official entity of the Iranian establishment – would constitute a violation of the United Nations Charter.

During a phone call, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian told the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell that the move “was like Europe shooting itself in the foot”. Several of the statements released by Iranian entities and officials say designating the IRGC signals “desperation” by European politicians after they failed to achieve their goals during “riots” in Iran. This is in line with Iranian authorities’ repeated stance that the West has been behind the protests aiming to destabilise Iran, a claim that has been rejected.

Meanwhile, talks to restore Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that the US unilaterally abandoned in 2018 also remain in limbo. European politicians continue to view the nuclear accord as the only viable remaining option to contain Iran’s nuclear programme, and the European Parliament also earlier this week voted against a motion to declare the talks dead.

Meanwhile, Iran’s troubled currency fell to a record low against the US dollar on Saturday amid the country’s increasing isolation and possible Europe Union sanctions against Tehran’s Revolutionary Guards or some of its members. Ties between the EU and Tehran have deteriorated in recent months as efforts to revive nuclear talks have stalled. Iran has detained several European nationals and the bloc has become increasingly critical of the violent treatment of protesters and the use of executions.