The IRGC should be on the terror list, almost all MEPs say. In this way, more pressure must be exerted on the regime, which is cracking down on demonstrators in Iran with its elite legion, and has already executed many demonstrators. The European Parliament will vote on it this afternoon in Strasbourg.
The European Union agrees with the line of the United States, which in 2019 designated the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization. In addition, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have a corps on the terror list. The UK also wants to put the Revolutionary Guards on its terrorism list, following the execution of Briton-Iranian Ali Reza Akbari last week.
Western sanctions have been in force on the Guard for years. If the Legion were placed on the terror list, their room for maneuver would be further restricted. Guard members and their families will no longer be able to travel to Europe or open a foreign bank account. This would further strain relations between Iran and Western countries.
Protector of the revolution
The Revolutionary Guards were established after the Iranian revolution in 1979 by spiritual leader Khomeini, with the aim of protecting the newly established Islamic Republic. The Corps has a professional army and a paramilitary group of volunteers Basicwhich also plays an important role in suppressing the demonstrations.
In recent decades, the elite corps has evolved from a militia into a powerful organization with significant political and economic influence, unlike the regular army. It has its own secret service, manages Iran’s nuclear program and conducts military operations abroad.
This is how the Revolutionary Guards gained a great deal of power militarily and economically:
What is the Iranian Revolutionary Guard?
After the Iran-Iraq war that ended in 1988, the Revolutionary Guards played an important role in building the country. The Elite Group operates companies in the construction, telecommunications and energy sectors, among others. The Revolutionary Guard has become more powerful in recent years due to the severe sanctions imposed on Iran. The Legion is active in the black market in drug smuggling and goods smuggling.
Guard members also have a big toe in the policy pie. This is how they introduce members of parliament and ministers. “They owe their success to Supreme Leader Khamenei, who relied on the Revolutionary Guards to get rid of his reformist opponents and other detractors,” said Arash Azizi, an Iran scholar at New York University.
Back to the wall
If the Guard ends up on the Terror List, that would be a huge step, according to Azizi. It is ultimately up to the EU member states to take this step. The researcher believes that “this will lead to the regime losing more international legitimacy.” “It’s a signal to the guards that they are getting more and more isolated.”
Mike Werner, an expert on Iran and historian at Leiden University, believes that power will also lose legitimacy in its own country. “The strength of the regime and the guard still legitimized the revolutionary message,” says Warner. “We see Iranians who want change, but there is also a large conservative group that we don’t see.”
Within the Guard, hardliners have gained the upper hand in recent years, just as they have within the regime. The guard is able to attract more power to himself. Azizi believes that “one consequence of the terror list may be that figures within the Revolutionary Guard realize that they have to break with Khamenei if they want to have a future.” “Put their backs against the wall.”
Relations between European countries and Iran have already been frosty since the protests began. If a decision is made to put the Guard on the terror list, it will “further strain the relationship,” says Warner. “There is intransigence on both sides. The statements of support from European leaders for the demonstrators are confirmation to the Iranian government that the West is behind the protests,” he added.
For a long time, the European Union acted as a mediator between the United States and Iran, which have not spoken since President Trump broke the nuclear deal. “But the negotiations between the EU and Iran are also at a loss,” Warner says. For the past two years, diplomats have tried to revive the deal. “This is no longer the case nowadays.”