TEHRAN (Reuters) – The commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards was quoted on Saturday as threatening to deal heavier blows in future against the United States after Washington said it may label the force a terrorist group.
The Iranian daily Kayhan said commander-in-chief Yahya Rahim Safavi made clear the Guards would not bow to U.S. pressure and would use all their leverage against the Americans.
Kayhan did not provide direct quotes from the speech in the central city of Isfahan on Thursday.
U.S. officials said on Wednesday that Washington may soon name the Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist group, a move that would enable Washington to target its finances.
It would be the first time the United States has placed the armed forces of a sovereign government on its list of terrorist organizations.
Tehran and Washington, which cut diplomatic ties shortly after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, are embroiled in a deepening standoff over Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.
They also blame each other for bloodshed in Iraq.
The Revolutionary Guards have already brushed off the latest threat from Washington and have said they will grow in strength despite U.S. efforts to isolate them.
Iran has threatened to strike U.S. regional interests if attacked over its nuclear program and Safavi has noted that Iranian missiles could hit warships operating anywhere in the Gulf and Oman Sea.
Tehran rejects Western accusations it is trying to build an atomic bomb and says its nuclear program is meant for peaceful energy.
The two countries accuse each other of creating strife in the Middle East, including Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories. The crisis in Iraq has pushed the arch foes to hold rare face-to-face talks to find an end to the bloodshed there.
The United States says it would prefer a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff but has not ruled out military action.
The Revolutionary Guards are an ideologically driven force, who see themselves as a guardians of the Islamic Republic. They have a separate command structure from the regular military.