On Tuesday, France’s Foreign Ministry expressed openness to the idea of designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. Ministry spokesperson Anne-Claire Legendre cited worsening repression of the country’s four-month anti-government uprising when explaining that “France is working with its European partners on new sanctions measures, without excluding any.”
The remarks came one day after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock issued separate condemnations of two executions that were carried out on Saturday against Iranian protesters who had been convicted of the vague, political charge of “spreading corruption on Earth.” While Scholz simply promised to further increase pressure on the Iranian regime with help from international partners, Baerbock explicitly stated that “listing the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization is politically important and makes sense” in the context of recent developments.
Those developments are not limited to the proliferation of domestic unrest and accompanying state repression inside the Islamic Republic, but also include escalations in Iran’s conduct toward foreign adversaries and in support of foreign allies.
Wir erhöhen den Druck auf #Iran weiter – gerade auf die #IRGC. Seit Oktober haben wir Dutzende von deren Anführern – Verantwortliche für Mord, Folter & Willkür – mit individuellen Sanktionen belegt. Ihr Geld eingefroren, ihre Geschäfte erschwert & die Bewegungsfreiheit beschränkt
— Außenministerin Annalena Baerbock (@ABaerbock) January 9, 2023
Although it is not clear whether Scholz’s and Baerbock’s remarks were in any way influenced by it, it was reported on Monday that German counterterrorism police had arrested two Iranian brothers and disrupted an Islamic extremist plot involving two chemical agents: cyanide and ricin. The reports stated that no link to Iranian state entities was established, but the absence of immediate evidence does not exonerate the regime or the IRGC, which has been closely involved in many terrorist attacks, including some in Europe and the Americas, since the founding of the Islamic Republic.
At a minimum, the German raid reinforces concerns about Iranian terrorism in the West, which have been remarkably apparent in recent years, especially since the disruption of a bomb plot near Paris which would have involved the detonation of 500 grams of the high explosive TATP at a gathering attended by tens of thousands of Iranian expatriates and hundreds of policymakers from throughout the world.
There are, however, much more immediate international threats associated with the IRGC which are more likely to justify its designation as a terrorist organization in the near future. These primary concerns Iran’s expanding relationship with Russia, specifically its provision of military drones for use in Russian attacks on Ukraine and its civilian infrastructure.
The European Union confirmed on Tuesday that it would be imposing new sanctions on Iran over its support for Russia’s war on Ukraine, though the question of IRGC terrorist designation remained open. Pressure in favor of that further action continues to mount upon the EU, from member states such as Germany. Others, including France, may add to that pressure in the near future as destructive cooperation between Iran and Russia evolves.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard set to be proscribed as terror group @FratellidItalia @LucioMalan @MarcoScurria @GaetanoNastri @DomenicoMatera @GiovanniSatta @FrancescaTubetti@rod_gian @DowlatNowrouzi @GlobalCRL:THE #EU MUST PROSCRIBE THE #IRGC NOW! https://t.co/8EFxdhlIZd
— Giulio Terzi (@GiulioTerzi) January 8, 2023
Signs of that evolution were already apparent on Tuesday when the Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Russian and Iranian representatives to international bodies in Vienna had held meetings to discuss “issues of mutual interest.” IRNA used the same report to boast that Iran, Russia, and China together constituted a “new triangular diplomatic group,” presumably one that functions primarily to challenge and undermine the foreign interests of Western powers.
Also on Tuesday, the US Navy provided a fresh reminder of Iran’s destructive influence in other areas when it reported the seizure of more than 2,000 assault rifles that were believed to be en route to Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen. The weapons in question were apparently of both Russian and Chinese manufacture, thus underscoring the danger of expanding cooperation among the three anti-Western states.
Best explanation on the continuity of #IRGC's external terrorism linked to internal repression going back to #1988Massacre . @BobBlackman best describes why IRGC should be proscribed by the UK. In fact, a step to be taken by all #EU member states. pic.twitter.com/fVjoON3VQt
— Aladdin Touran (@AladdinTouran) January 12, 2023
The IRGC has a long history of weapons smuggling, and a number of affiliated shipping companies and airlines have been sanctioned by the US, Britain, and the EU on that basis. The smuggling in question has frequently aided in the IRGC’s proliferation of Shiite Muslim extremist groups in the surrounding region and has thus fueled longstanding calls for the hardline paramilitary to be designated as a terrorist organization.