The Trump Administration declared Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a “foreign terrorist organization” on Monday.
The unprecedented move is the first time the United States has labeled another country’s military a terrorist group.
"This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft," President Trump said in a statement.
The IRGC was established by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Iran’s military numbers 125,000, is in charge of the nation’s missile and nuclear programs and controls a large slice of Iran’s economy.
The Trump administration hopes the declaration will diminish the IRGC’s financial resources and presence in the Middle East.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the designation comes with sanctions against the Islamic state, including a freeze on assets the IRGC may have in US jurisdictions and a ban on Americans doing business with the Guard.
The WSJ also reported that national security advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed for the move.
In February, Pompeo attended a US-led security conference in Poland that focused on deterring Iran’s influence in the region.
"You can't achieve peace and stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran," Pompeo said during the conference. "It's just not possible (with) their malign influence in Lebanon, in Yemen, in Syria and Iraq."
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said he supports the move in a statement.
“A formal designation and its consequences may be new, but these IRGC butchers have been terrorists for a long time,” Sasse said.
— James Wegmann (@jameswegmann) April 5, 2019
Iranian leaders threatened to blacklist the United States as a terror entity if the US follows through on Monday’s designation.
“If the Revolutionary Guards are placed on America’s list of terrorist groups, we will put that country’s military on the terror blacklist next to Daesh (Islamic State),” Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, Iran’s head of parliament’s national security committee, said on Twitter.
The WSJ report said that senior Pentagon officials were uneasy about the move, fearing it could endanger US troops in the region.
The UC Central Command, which oversees US forces in the Middle East is reportedly planning to alert US troops in the upcoming days, just in case Iran or Shiite militias try to retaliate.
Reuters reports that Central Intelligence Agency and military officials are concerned the designation will open the US up to similar actions by hostile governments abroad.
It is unclear what impact the declaration will have on America’s activities in countries that have close ties with Iran.