Patrick Goodenough | International Editor | Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Citing unnamed U.S. officials, the Washington Post and New York Times reported that the administration is about to crack down on the IRGC.
Designation under the post-9/11 executive order 13224 cuts off organizations and individuals from the U.S. financial system.
According to the State Department, the order authorizes the government to block assets of terrorists and those who provide support to terrorists, as well as subsidiaries, front organizations, agents and associates.
Those blacklisted in recent years include al-Qaeda-affiliated groups and individuals in Libya and Southeast Asia, Saudi "charities" in Indonesia and the Philippines, radicals operating in the tri-border region between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, and -- just this week -- the Lebanon-based Islamist group, Fatah al-Islam.
If the terrorist designation of the IRGC goes ahead it will, significantly, target an agency of a foreign government.
Testifying before two House panels last April, counter-terrorism expert Victor Comras identified the IRGC as an Iranian sector that should be targeted for U.N. sanctions.
"Special measures should be adopted which specifically freeze the assets and financial transactions of Iran's Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, as well as its clerical, presidential and parliamentary leaders," he told the hearing.
"The IRGC's business and industrial activities are heavily engaged in Iran's energy sector and its engineering arm, the Khatam-ol-Anbia, has been the beneficiary of numerous oil and gas development-related contracts," Comras said.
The independent Iranian online news service Rooz reported Wednesday that the government has taken to using subsidiaries associated with the IRGC to keep some oil projects going in the face of U.N.-backed sanctions.
"According to experts and analysts, the country's oil infrastructure resembles security and military areas these days," it said.
The IRGC, also known as the Pasdaran (Persian for "guards"), was set up as the "guardian of the Islamic Revolution" after the overthrow of the Shah in 1979. Three years later, a 1,500-strong IGRC force was sent to Lebanon, where it oversaw the establishment of Hizballah, the terrorist group that the following year was the principal suspect in deadly bombings of the U.S Embassy and U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut.
Over the past decade and more, that State Department's annual reports on global terrorism have consistently reported on Iran's key involvement in state-sponsored terror. And it is the IRGC, estimated to be 120,000-125,000-strong, that researchers link to much of that activity. The corps' Quds (Jerusalem) Force is believed to oversee terrorism abroad.
Since Ahmadinejad took power in 2005, the IRGC has enjoyed more influence than ever, according to Iranian dissident groups.
Not only was Ahmadinejad himself a former senior officer in the IRGC and the Quds Force, but according to Iran Focus, an anti-regime Iranian news service, more than half of his 21 cabinet members -- including defense minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar -- have IRGC backgrounds. Key posts in other bodies, such as the supreme national security council, are also held by former Revolutionary Guards.
In recent years, the IRGC's role in anti-U.S. violence in Iraq has become more evident, according to U.S. officials.
In the State Department's annual terrorism reports covering 2005 and 2006, the IRGC is accused of supplying lethal assistance, including armor-piercing explosives, to Iraqi militant groups fighting U.S. forces.
On Monday, the Multinational Force-Iraq (MNF-I) reported the capture of a "key financier" of "special groups" terrorists suspected of killing Iraqi citizens, directing attacks against coalition forces, and promoting sectarian violence. An MNF-I spokesman said the "special groups" are believed to have "direct ties" to the IRGC-Quds Force.
The MNF-I on July 31 reported the capture of terrorists "with ties to" the IRGC-Quds Force.
"The captured suspected terrorists are believed to be key players in a major facilitation network for smuggling weapons and components of Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs) from Iran into Iraq to be used against coalition forces," it said in a statement.
"Iranian influence is hindering the prospects of peace and stability in Iraq," said MNF-I spokesman Major Marc Young.
Armor-penetrating EFPs are a particularly effective type of improvised explosive device -- a shaped charge capable of penetrating most armor used by coalition forces in Iraq, with deadly results.
The MNF-I also reported the apprehension of terrorists with IRGC links on July 22 and on July 20, saying they were suspected of smuggling weapons, money and personnel from Iran into Iraq, to be used against coalition forces and Iraqi civilians.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran, an exiled opposition group based in Paris, has claimed that at least six IRGC-Quds Force terrorists have been based at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad.
Just last week, Ali Larijani, Iran's supreme national security council chief -- and a former IRGC commander -- was holding talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Iranian television said they "reviewed the latest developments in the region, particularly the issue of security in Iraq."
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