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Iran warns US over plan to designate Revolutionary Guards as terrorists

US may make declaration on Monday in effort to squeeze IRGC’s financial resources and shrink its military presence in Middle East
IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari says American security forces may no longer enjoy calm in west Asia region (AFP/file photo)

Iran will take reciprocal action against the United States if Washington designates its elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as terrorists, Iranian officials and parliamentarians said on Sunday.

The Trump administration is expected to make the declaration on Monday in an effort to squeeze the IRGC’s financial resources and shrink its military presence in the Middle East, the Wall Street Journal reported. On Sunday, Iranian officials shot back at those plans.

"We will answer any action taken against this force with a reciprocal action," a statement issued by Iranian lawmakers said, according to official news agency IRNA. "So the leaders of America, who themselves are the creators and supporters of terrorists in the region, will regret this inappropriate and idiotic action," the statement said, as quoted by Reuters.

Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said on Sunday that US officials aiming to designate the IRGC as terrorists wanted to "drag the US into a quagmire" on behalf of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel and Iran are arch-enemies in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the IRGC’s commander, Mohammad Ali Jafari, was quoted by the Fars news agency as issuing a more direct threat: "With this stupidity, the American army and security forces will no longer have today's calm in the west Asia region.”

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Iranian officials didn’t elaborate on what kind of retaliatory measures Iran might take.

Zarif appeared to be implying that classifying the Guards as terrorists may draw them into conflict with US forces in the region on behalf of Israel.

Netanyahu has described the Tehran government as a "terrorist regime" that threatens the world and promotes attacks worldwide. Iran denies this.

Israel, which has urged the US to take a tougher line against Tehran, could become a target, too.

Set up after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to protect the Shia clerical ruling system, the IRGC is Iran's most powerful security organisation. It controls large sectors of the Iranian economy and has enormous influence within its political system.

Branding the IRGC as a terror group could help the US clamp down on its businesses in Europe and elsewhere and subject IRGC officials to travel restrictions, the WSJ said.

Since taking office, US President Donald Trump has moved aggressively to curb Iran’s military reach in the Middle East. He withdrew the US from the 2015 multinational nuclear pact and reinstated tough sanctions to pile pressure on Iran’s weakened economy.

National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are strong proponents of a hard line against Iran, including a terrorist designation of the IRGC, US officials said.