Archive for April 8, 2019

US designates Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terror organization

April 8, 2019

Source: US designates Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terror organization | The Times of Israel

American official says move planned months in advance, those who deal with IRGC will face criminal penalties under US law

US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House, March 14, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House, March 14, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump officially designated the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization on Monday, in a move that Israel has long pushed for and that will ramp up the administration’s pressure campaign against Tehran. It is the first time that an extension of a foreign government has been designated as a terrorist entity.

“This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” the president said in a statement.”The IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.”

The Trump administration’s decision is expected to ramp up tensions between the United States and Iran, whose leaders have warned that, if the US were to make such a designation, they would respond by labeling the US military a terrorist group.

Monday’s policy decision will mean that anyone who deals with the IRGC could face criminal charges, including aiding or supporting a terrorist group, the White House said.

“This action will significantly expand the scope and scale of our maximum pressure on the Iranian regime,” Trump said. “It makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC. If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.”

In a briefing with reporters Monday morning, White House officials said the administration considers the IRGC an “active and enthusiastic participant in acts of terror” that aims to destabilize the Middle East.

“The Middle East cannot be more stable and peaceful without a weakened IRGC,” a senior administration official said.

The move comes less than 24 hours before Israelis head to the polls in a nail-biting contest between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of Trump, and Benny Gantz, who leads the centrist Blue and White party.

Some of the prime minister’s political opponents have construed the US administration’s increased pressure against Iran recently as an effort to assist Netanyahu’s re-election campaign, and analysts interpreted Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights several weeks ago as a boost to the Israeli premier. An official was asked Monday morning if the move was at all related, and replied that the decision had been planned for months.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps was formed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution with a mission to defend the clerical regime, in contrast to the more traditional military units that protected Iranian borders. It exists in parallel to Iran’s regular military. The Revolutionary Guards have amassed enormous power within Iran, becoming owners of significant industries and other economic interests on behalf of the regime.

The Guards’ prized foreign operations unit is the Quds Force, named for the Arabic word for Jerusalem, which supports forces allied with Iran around the region, such as Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group.

The Trump administration has already imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran after withdrawing last year from the Iran nuclear agreement, under which Tehran scaled back its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

The Pentagon and CIA reportedly have reservations about the move by the Trump administration, with officials saying it could increase risks for US troops in the region without doing much more to damage the Iranian economy than existing sanctions and restrictions are already doing.

Reuters noted that in 2017 IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari said such action by Washington would lead the Guards to “consider the American army to be like Islamic State all around the world.”


When Will Iran’s Regime Finally Cave In?

April 8, 2019

Islamic Revolution Guards Will Attack US if Trump Designates Them as Terrorists

April 8, 2019 Credit: Fars

Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), on Sunday warned that the US designates the IRGC as a terrorist organization “the US Army and American security forces stationed in the Middle-East will lose their current status of ease and serenity,” Fars reported.

“If they make a stupid move as such and endanger out national security, a reciprocal move will be placed on our agenda and then put into operation based on the policies of the Establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Ali Jafari reiterated.

Ali Jafari spoke following a report by the Wall Street Journal that US officials plan to designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. According to the WSJ, the announcement could be made as early as Monday, and would be the first branding of a sovereign country’s military as a terrorist group.

A belligerent Jafari said back in 2017 that “the Americans fear the consequences of war with Iran and know that if such a war starts, they will lose and therefore, they are after hitting a blow to the Islamic Republic through soft war and economic pressure.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has tweeted his own warning to President Trump: “Netanyahu Firsters who have long agitated for FTO (Foreign Terrorist Organization) designation of the IRGC fully understand its consequences for US forces in the region. In fact, they seek to drag the US into a quagmire on his behalf.”

Netanyahu to i24NEWS: ‘I hope we won’t have to say no’ to Trump’s peace plan

April 8, 2019


Netanyahu says ‘coming from a friend’ he expects Trump’s plan will take Israel’s interests into consideration

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told i24NEWS on Monday that he believes President Donald Trump’s long-awaited peace plan — expected to be published imminently following Israel’s national elections on Tuesday — will “include everything we want,” but raised the possibility of rejecting the offer if it doesn’t.

In an exclusive and broad-ranging interview for i24NEWS-Israel Hayom’s joint election special less than 48-hours before Israelis begin casting ballots, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “coming from a friend” he expects the plan will take into consideration Israel’s interests, including maintaining security presence in the West Bank and a united Jerusalem.

“We have to give president Trump a chance, I don’t know what will ultimately be presented but I believe they respect what I have suggested,” Netanyahu said. “My guess is that coming from a friend, they will consider most of what I just said.”

Trump has previously stated that both sides would have to make concessions in any final settlement and that the Israeli government would “pay a higher price” in return for his recognition of Jerusalem and his relocation of the US embassy there.

“I hope we don’t have to say no,” Netanyahu said of the plan.

During the interview, Netanyahu repeated his vow not to uproot a single Israeli settler from the West Bank, saying doing so would be tantamount to “ethnic cleansing”.

The premier, who is in the midst of a hard-fought battle for re-election, reiterated his vow to extend Israel’s sovereignty to settlements in the West Bank if he wins another term, but clarified that he has no intentions of annexing all of the West Bank.

“I did not say I would annex the West Bank, I said I would apply Israeli law to Jewish communities in Judea & Samaria,” Netanyahu affirmed, using a biblical term to refer to the territory of the West Bank.

“I said time and time again, I will not remove a single Israeli forcibly, I am against ethnic cleansing,” he added.

Over the course of more than ten years in power, Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected relinquishing Israeli military control over territory west of the Jordan River. Israel maintains full security and administrative control over the West Bank’s “Area C”, which comprises some 60% of the territory.

Many of Netanyahu’s right-wing political rivals openly call for the annexation of Area C, where most major Israeli settlement blocs are concentrated, while others call for the application of Israeli sovereignty over the entire West Bank where some 430,000 Israeli settlers live among 2.6 million Palestinians.

Netanyahu’s pledge to extend sovereignty over settlements were criticized domestically as a ploy to appeal to right-wing voters, and internationally as a threat to the two-state solution.

– ‘The main lesson from Gaza is not to repeat it’ –

Defending his policy in the Gaza Strip — which has come under stark criticism by his political rivals who seek to erode his reputation as “Mr Security” — Netanyahu said that the trio of generals heading up the centrist Blue & White party — Benny Gantz, Moshe Ya’alon, Gabi Ashkenazi – have not suggested any novel security policies.

“They (the ex-IDF chiefs) have not realized that the main lesson of Gaza is not to repeat it in Judea & Samaria,” Netanyahu said.

“I do not wish recreate a Hama-stan that is twenty times the size,” he said, referring to the 2005 Israeli disengagement from the coastal enclave that, following a rift with Fatah led to Hamas’ seizure of power.

“There was a possibility of conquering Gaza…it is not something that I can rule out completely,” Netanyahu tells i24NEWS

Netanyahu’s former coalition was thrown into chaos in November when Avigdor Liberman, who served as defense minister, quit the post and pulled his party from the government over sharp disagreement with the premier’s policy in the Strip, including an agreement to allow millions of dollars of Qatari funding into the enclave in exchange for relative calm on the border.

But Netanyahu appeared to champion his ability to respond to periodic flare-ups in a “measured way”, noting that “not a single Israeli was killed” in the four and a half years since Israel’s last war with Hamas.

“There was a possibility of conquering Gaza, but it would draw a lot of blood from our people but it is not something that I can rule out completely,” he told i24NEWS. However, he explained that he was would continue to act “responsibly” even if it would cost him politically.

As violence has continued to spill into Israel in the form of weekly riots and the launch of rockets and incendiary devices across the border, Netanyahu’s rivals have accused the long-serving premier of not acting strongly enough to quell the tensions and of abandoning Israeli citizens living in proximity to Gaza.

“Israel has to defend itself against any enemy, I don’t need international guarantees”

When pressed on whether he would negotiate with Hamas, he clarified that communication with the Islamist organization was “not about a peace deal” and said he would, via proxies, focus on returning Israeli citizens, slain soldiers and MIA’s.

As the date for unveiling long-awaited and widely-anticipated US peace plan draws near, Netanyahu threw his weight behind his American ally and said Israel should give US President Donald Trump a chance at making peace adding that he believes Washington will take Israel’s interests into consideration.

Watch the full i24NEWS interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu here!