Hook: IRGC terror label ‘reduces risk of American lives at Soleimani’s hands’

Ismaeel Naar
Ismaeel Naar - Al Arabiya English
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US State Department officials said that the recent designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was designed to reduce the risk to lives of American soldiers or citizens by Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani in the future.

“General Soleimani has the blood of Americans on his hands, as does the force that he leads, and this designation that we took yesterday is another step to reduce the risk that any American soldier or any American will be killed by General Soleimani and the racket that he runs with the IRGC and the Quds Force,” Brian Hook, US Special Representative for Iran, told Al Arabiya English during a telephonic press briefing along with the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, Nathan Sales.

US President Donald Trump designated Iran’s IRGC forces as a foreign terrorist organization on Monday. The designation comes into effect from April 15.

Comprising an estimated 125,000-strong military with army, navy and air units, the IRGC also command the Basij, a religious volunteer paramilitary group. It also oversees the Quds forces, commanded by Soleimani, who have fought Iran’s proxy wars in the region.

Hook referenced to recently declassified documents which said that Iran was responsible for killing over 600 US service members in Iraq from 2003 until 2011.

The US has in the past blacklisted dozens of entities and people for affiliations with the IRGC, but not the organization as a whole. In 2007, the US Treasury designated the IRGC’s Quds Force “for its support of terrorism,” and has described it as Iran’s “primary arm for executing its policy of supporting terrorist and insurgent groups.”

Asked on whether the US decision to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization would increase the chances of a military conflict with Iran, Hook dismissed the concerns while adding that the sanctions’ primary focus was aimed at “driving up the costs of Tehran’s expansionist foreign policy.”

“There is no better path to support the Iranian people than to pressure the regime from outside and to drive up the costs of its internal repression and external terrorism,” Hook said.

Sales, the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, added that US sanctions have had immediate effects.

“Hezbollah used to receive $700 million a year to commit its terrorism from the Iranian regime. They’re now doing a fund-raising drive. That tells you something about the effects that our designations and sanctions tools have had,” Sales said.

Speaking to Al Arabiya, Patrick Clawson, a senior fellow and director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that the designation on Monday had little practical implications as the US Treasury Department had already labeled the IRGC as a terrorist organization three times since 2007. He, however, admitted that there was some effect to Monday’s decision.

“As an economic matter, the decision had very little impact but it was rich in symbolism saying that this institution of the Iranian government is, in fact, a terrorist organization,” Clawson said.

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