Broadcast media across the world as well as various social-media platforms have been filled with heated debates after the US announced on Monday that it was designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. After the announcement, some analysts suggested that the move was directed at the Israeli audience who would be heading to polling stations to elect their next government. They believed that the designation was done to help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his tight re-election campaign.
However, the reason wasn’t connected to Netanyahu’s re-election campaign, but the timing was.
Designating the IRGC – which is a part of the Iranian armed forces and not a group of armed militias – a terrorist organization only for the purpose of helping the re-election of the prime minister of an all-time ally does not seem a correct speculation. In fact, the move was in the cards anyway because of the IRGC’s support for the spread of terrorist proxies across the Middle East, though the timing of the announcement could indeed have been chosen to help Netanyahu’s campaign.
Indeed, the IRGC’s support for the spread of terrorist proxies across the Middle East was destabilizing the whole region and was further degrading the regional peace, which was already in a dire condition. Whether the activities of the IRGC across the region was bad enough to designate it as a terrorist organization is worth debating. To do this, a number of incidents that have been taking place in the Middle East have to be considered along with their connection to the IRGC. Syria seems the appropriate conflict zone to start with.
IRGC’s record in Syria
In 2011, the Mukhabarat, the Syrian secret police loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, brutally tortured Hamza al-Khateeb, a 13-year-old boy, who was returned to his family with his head swollen, purple and disfigured, his body was full of marks, cigarette burns, wounds from bullets, kneecaps smashed, neck broken and jaw shattered. The most brutal part of this torture was that the boy’s penis was cut off. Hundreds of other children and teenagers faced similar tortures at the hands of Assad’s police and army.
Many in Iran and elsewhere expected Iran’s leaders to act – or at least speak – against the heinous activities of Assad and his loyalists. However, instead of speaking for the slain victims, Iran’s leaders chose to side with their longtime ally Assad.
What’s more, the Iranian leadership’s military arm, the IRGC, had led the campaigns of killing Sunnis and non-Twelver Shiites in the thousands in order to wipe them out from many Syrian and Iraqi areas – something that is no less than genocide. A portion of the remaining Sunni and non-Twelver population were either compelled to take refuge in neighboring countries and Europe to escape these sectarian-identity-based killings or were forcefully and actively driven out of their native areas – which clearly amounted to ethnic cleansing.
While many of these wipe-out campaigns received little media attention, it was the sectarian cleansing in Iraq’s Fallujah that attracted larger media coverage. In Fallujah, the Iraqi forces and Iran-backed Iraqi militias killed thousands of innocent Sunnis under the cover of “liberating” the area from ISIS. In the areas around Iraqi city of Samarra, too, the Sunnis were driven out with the intention to create a Sunni-free corridor.
All of the aforesaid killings and ethnic-cleansing campaigns were monitored, aided, funded and managed by the Quds Force, which is responsible for carrying out the IRGC’s campaigns outside Iran. Much of these campaigns were carried out in Iraq with the help of sectarian elements in the Iraqi Army, the Iran-backed Iraqi militias and Iran-backed Hezbollah, while in Syria the campaigns were carried out with the help from Assad’s army and Hezbollah.
The IRGC’s financial support and training services to the proxy terrorist groups across the Middle East are nothing new. The organization has been doing this since its inception. What was different, however, in recent times in Syria and Iraq was that IRGC members went a step further to engage themselves directly in the killings of innocent civilians based on their sectarian identities.
Moreover, in Syria, Assad could not have carried out the alleged gas/chemical attacks on innocent civilians in rebel-held areas without the backing from the IRGC and without the Iranian leadership’s endorsement. Many newspapers, including The New York Times, covered the allegations of Assad’s repeated gas/chemical attacks on the civilians, and the global broadcast media ran footage claiming to show the aftermath of these attacks.
These attacks caused enormous suffering and pain to their civilian victims, including children, before ultimately taking their lives. The footage aired by various broadcast-media outlets clearly show the intolerable suffering the victims had to endure.
Considering the atrocities aided and committed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (only a few of which have been mentioned above), it wasn’t an unfair move to designate the organization as “terrorist.” Designating an entity that has a record of causing horror, terror and death as terrorist is an appropriate response to its atrocious actions.