Bannon to Name Leading Group Fighting ISIS as “Terrorists”

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General Suleimani in Tikrit
General Suleimani in Tikrit
Top military officials have cautioned the White House against designating Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist group, arguing the move would endanger American troops in Iraq, where the Corps is also fighting Islamic State, US media revealed.

The concerns were raised recently by defense and intelligence officials at the highest levels, according to the Washington Post, citing unnamed sources in the administration.

© Behrouz Mehri

The news comes amid emerging reports that the White House is preparing to list Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) – by far the most powerful national security and defense entity in Iran – as a terrorist organization.

The proposal, possibly coming in the form of an executive order by the Trump administration, would prohibit any material support or other kinds of contact with the sanctioned entity.

Given the extraordinary nature of the proposal and its potential impact on Middle Eastern affairs, the issue was still under debate, a senior administration official told the newspaper.

Despite pressure from hardliners in the Trump administration who champion a tough stance against Iran, dissenting voices are still making themselves heard. “I don’t think it’s so much defense and intelligence; I think it’s ourselves,” the official said.

“There are so many second, third and fifth order of facts with every decision, as we see it, and so I think that this is an area where, rightly so, we have to be very smart,” the official added. “This all has to do with [Iran’s] behavior. What we have to do is figure out what are the right things to consider. We consider a lot of things. What we actually decide to do is different.”

White House spokesman Sean Spicer declined to comment on the report, telling journalists on Wednesday that “there is no one who can question the president’s commitment to fully attacking and addressing the threat that we face from radical Islamic terrorism… The first step is knowing and proclaiming who the enemy is.”

With that in mind, US defense officials are concerned that the designation could affect the uneasy contact the US military maintains with Shiite militias in Iraq that are organized by the Quds Force unit of the Revolutionary Guards.

According to the Washington Post, there is a tacit agreement – negotiated through the Iraqi government – between the US contingent in Iraq and the Shiite militias, allowing them to avoid clashes. However, the agreement is fragile and could possibly lead to attacks on American forces, officials said.

FILE PHOTO: Launch of an Imad missile, Iran. © HO / Iranian Defence Ministry

While the designation could favor rulers in the Gulf – with many of them accusing Tehran of forming a ‘Shia crescent’ to undermine the Sunni monarchies – it would also strengthen Iranian hardliners in their internal dispute with moderate President Hassan Rouhani, whose cabinet negotiated the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal with several major world powers, including the US.

If issued, the executive order would create the first known instance of designating a foreign government institution as a terrorist entity. The IRGC is the guardian of Iran’s internal security and a powerful yet independent military organization that includes its own army, navy and air forces as well as special forces and intelligence units.

Created by Ayatollah Khomeini shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to safeguard the ruling regime, the Corps is said to comprise more than 120,000 active personnel. Throughout the past years, the Revolutionary Guard has been deployed abroad, including in neighboring Iraq and Syria, where it is engaged in fighting Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

The Corps’ elite Quds Force has already been designated as a terrorist organization by the US Department of Treasury, prohibiting transactions between the group and US nationals, and freezing any assets under American jurisdiction. While little is reliably known about the Quds Force, the group is believed to conduct high-risk intelligence, sabotage and special operations against Iran’s adversaries.

Last week the US administration imposed new sanctions against 25 Iranian nationals and entities in response to a ballistic missile test. Iran itself is one of three countries on the State Department’s notorious list of so-called ‘state sponsors of terrorism.’ The other nations on the list are Sudan and Syria.

Somewhat ironically, Iran is contributing military advisers, troops and materiel to the armed forces of Syria, where a bloody war against Islamist extremists has been raging since 2011.

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…. from Press TV, Tehran

US President Donald Trump visits the US Central Command (CENTCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base on February 6, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by AFP)
US President Donald Trump visits the US Central Command (CENTCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base on February 6, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. 

The US State and Defense Departments have cautioned President Donald Trump against designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, a report says.

The White House has been weighing designating the IRGC – the elite arm of Iran’s security forces — and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood as “Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” Trump administration officials familiar with the matter told CNN.

But, the officials said, Trump did not sign executive orders on the issue after US national security agencies warned the president about the consequences of such a move, the US news network reported on Thursday.

President Trump was scheduled to sign the IRGC order on Monday during his visit to the US Central Command (CENTCOM)’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, but the plan was put on hold after the State and Defense Departments expressed “serious objections,” according to the officials.

The US military’s CENTCOM deals with issues in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, most notably Afghanistan and Iraq. It is not clear now if Trump will sign the order (Note: or who will read it to him first) regarding the IRGC.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi

The officials said Trump was told that designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization would create serious problems for Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is receiving assistance from both the US military and the IRGC in his fight against the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group.

In addition, they said that US national security agencies are also concerned that American military and embassy personnel in Iraq could be targeted after such an action from the United States.

This is while, according to reports, some officials from the Trump administration have received money from the anti-Iran Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) to deliver speeches in support of the terrorist group.

Trump’s transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, received $50,000 in 2015 for a five-minute speech to the political wing of the MKO, which has carried out numerous terrorist attacks against Iranian civilians and government officials over the past three decades.

Elaine Chao (L) looks on as US Vice President Mike Pence speaks before swearing her in as Transportation Secretary in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

In March 2016, Chao received another $17,500 for a speech that she gave to the Iranian-American Cultural Association of Missouri, which reportedly has ties with the MKO terrorist group. Chao is the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Former mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani, who is also likely to get a post in the Trump administration, has also acknowledged that he has been paid by the MKO for his appearances at the terrorist group’s events.

Out of the nearly 17,000 Iranians killed in terrorist assaults since the victory of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, about 12,000 have fallen victim to MKO’s terrorist attacks.

The organization also sided with former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during Iraq’s eight-year imposed war against Iran in the 1980s. The group also helped Saddam in his brutal crackdown on his opponents.

Members of the terrorist Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) (file photo)

The US State Department added the MKO to its list of foreign terrorist organizations in 1997 for the group’s involvement in the killing of Americans in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on US soil in 1992.

But, now some officials in the Trump administration are reportedly lobbying for the MKO’s removal from the US list of terrorist groups, and designate Iran’s IRGC, which has been fighting against terrorism and aggression since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, as a terrorist organization.

According to some observers, Israel and Saudi Arabia, which are considered main sponsors of terrorism in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, Yemen and Syria, are pushing the Trump administration to act against the IRGC, an organization that has frustrated their designs on these countries.

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