As Oct. 15 approaches President Donald Trump must decide whether to decertify the Iran deal or not. Pundits on both sides of the aisle are weighing in with their “expert” opinions. Some want to keep the deal as they see it necessary for “stability” in the Middle East, while others view the deal as a pathway for Iran to get nuclear weapons.
Whether or not the deal is succeeding is unknown, inspections are not allowed on military bases, the Iranians could be undergoing a Manhattan Project type campaign on any one of dozens of installations with IAEA inspectors being none the wiser. The deal has not stopped Iran’s quest to become the regional hegemon. Iran continues to spread influence by supporting terrorist organizations while propping up regimes in Syria and Yemen. Iran continues to test ballistic missiles, all of which violates the spirit of the agreement.
If the President wishes to roll back the advances Iran has made, he must declare the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), also known as Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, was created with the task of preserving the Islamic Republic of Iran and the revolution that brought it to power in 1979. Under Iranian law, the organization is described as, “an institution under the command of the Supreme Leader whose purpose is to safeguard the Islamic Revolution of Iran and its achievements and continuous efforts to achieve divine aspirations and promote the rule of law of God.”
The organization consists of five branches: an army, a navy, an air force, the Quds Force, and the Basij. There are approximately 150,000 active duty members in the IRGC, not including the Basij.
The Basij is the internal militia. Today, the Basij has two missions: giving military training to regime supporters to prepare them to resist foreign invasion and helping suppress domestic opposition to the regime through street violence and intimidation. The Basij is the branch that brutalized the protesters during the Green Revolution of 2009. It is estimated the Basij has up to four million members.
The Quds Force is a special branch that carries out the wishes of the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei outside Iranian borders. The Quds Force helped create Hezbollah in 1982. The group also is responsible for propping up Syrian President Bashir al-Assad. This branch of the IRGC was declared a terrorist organization in 2007 by the Treasury Department for providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.
While legislation has been introduced into Congress for designation of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization, H.R.478 – IRGC Terrorist Sanctions Act of 2017, the administration can act without Congress. The legal criteria for designation under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act as amended states:
- It must be a foreign organization.
- The organization must engage in terrorist activity, as defined in section 212 (a)(3)(B) of the INA (8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(3)(B)),* or terrorism, as defined in section 140(d)(2) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1988 and 1989 (22 U.S.C. § 2656f(d)(2)),** or retain the capability and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism.
- The organization’s terrorist activity or terrorism must threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security (national defense, foreign relations, or the economic interests) of the United States.
The IRGC fits the criteria.
Declaring the IRGC a terrorist organization is important because the guard corps is now the most important entity in the Iranian economy. Following the Iran-Iraq war, the group moved beyond military operations and into construction activity. IRGC-affiliated companies would push out foreign competitors for contracts to build airports and with the funds going towards the IRGC.
The beginnings of the economic power for the guard corps can be traced back to Iranian revolution. Following the overthrow of the Shah, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini took power and installed an Islamic theocracy. Key to the theocracy was the Iranian Constitution. Two articles within the constitution would lay the groundwork for the IRGC to take control of the Iranian economy decades later:
- Article 44 states, “The economic system of the Islamic Republic of Iran is based on three sectors: state, cooperative, and private, and will be based on disciplined and correct planning.”
- Article 49 reads, “The government is responsible for confiscating illegitimate wealth resulting from usury, usurpation, bribery, embezzlement, theft, gamble, misuse of Islamic government endowments, misuse of government contracts and transactions, uncultivated lands and others belonging to the public, houses of ill repute, and other illegitimate sources.”
The two articles allowed the guard corps to take control of portions of the economy after the Iran-Iraq war, but following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in 2005, the effort to gain control of economic sectors by the IRGC went into overdrive.
The regime began placing 80 percent of all economic enterprises under the supervision of IRGC organizations. This included airlines, banks, foreign commerce, insurance companies, large mines, power generation, ports, roads, and shipping companies. When all was said and done, Khamenei and the guard corps now control 50 percent of Iranian GDP, which sits at $393 billion.
This is Iran’s weak spot. Because the IRGC has infiltrated so much of the Iranian economy, any action against the IRGC is likely to get the regime’s attention. If the IRGC were to be declared a foreign terrorist organization, no U.S. companies would be allowed to do business with companies linked to the IRGC.
Furthermore, international companies doing business in Iran with IRGC companies would not be able to do business in the U.S. The companies would have to choose to do business with the U.S. economy or an economy only 2 percent that size. Not sure that is much of a choice for any company.
The designation would also open up companies doing business with IRGC linked businesses to civil litigation. For example, Kia maintained a relationship with SAIPA during the heaviest of the sanctions, producing thousands of vehicles. SAIPA is a subsidiary of the Industrial Development and Renovation Organization, which is a government body controlling various companies involved in the nuclear and missile programs, and has IRGC commanders sitting on the board of directors. Would Kia be willing to risk millions in damages for material support of terrorism, and access to the U.S. market for the Iranian market?
This action would in effect shut down the Iranian economy.
The President has said multiple times he wanted to renegotiate the Iran deal, and the economic approach is known to work. Following sanctions levied by the Obama administration in 2012, the Iranian economy began a steep contraction over the next three years. According to Secretary of State John Kerry, the sanctions are what brought the Iranian regime to the negotiating table.
The IRGC is the most dangerous organization in the world. Its ranks are filled with zealots that have no compunction about marching children into minefields to save armor. Thanks to the horrendous Iran deal, the organization is on the fast track to a nuclear ICBM. Members of the intelligence community believe the sudden jump in technology by North Korea is due to money funneled from the IRGC to the hermit kingdom. President Trump can force Iran back to the negotiating table. The President must designate the IRGC a foreign terrorist organization.