Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, right, with Brigadier General Ali Fadavi and other commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, following the arrest of US soldiers in the Persian Gulf. (Wikimedia Commons)

In an unprecedented move, President Trump has designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group. Iranians themselves have recognized that soft power diplomacy with Iran does not work.

We need to stop pretending that Iran’s current government can be negotiated with, let alone trusted to implement policies and actions that can benefit Iranians. We further need to stop listening to Iranian government spokespersons as representative of Iranians at large. Iranian government officials are corrupt, self-interested, and seek only to keep themselves in power by waging an anti-West war to legitimize their own Islamic state.

The sentiments of the Iranian people expressed for The Pavlovic Today on condition of anonymity show that they do not trust their government.

“Iranian people don’t trust their government. It is corrupt and doesn’t care about them. They care more about Syria, Yemen and Lebanon than Iranians. The people are reluctant to help in these dire emergency situations, because they believe their help will not reach to Iranian people and that it will most probably be diverted to Syria & Yemen.”

“The corrupt economic arm of the Revolutionary Guards (Sepah) is mostly responsible for these disasters.Through their strong connections with leader’s office, they have taken over many lucrative contracts to build dams, bridges, railway and roads which they have all been collapsing or damaged and were the main cause of floods”

President Trump and the Trump administration do not fall short of misguided or racist foreign policies, by any means. But economic sanctions against Iran and direct political attacks against the regime that label it as the terrorist organization that it is are a step in the right direction. Iranians will not be met with peace or safety until the regime is overthrown, but they need foreign support to help their fight; this support comes not from sympathizing with the inhumane regime, but with supporting the plight of Iranians themselves.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard as a Terrorist Group

In a press release titled, “President Donald J. Trump Is Holding the Iranian Regime Accountable for its Global Campaign of Terrorism” on April 8, 2019, President Trump announced that he is designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), as an official Foreign Terrorist Organization, a title shared with al-Qa’ida and Hezbollah. The statement justified the decision by pointing to Iran’s history of funding, collaborating with, and directly supporting both official terrorist organizations and movements across the Middle East.

This action is unprecedented, in that no direct subsidiary of another state’s government has ever previously been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. This decision legitimizes the U.S.’s characterization of the Islamic Regime as a direct associate and enabler of terrorism. It also holds practical implications for Iran, in that the designation may barre contact between foreign officials or diplomats who have previously been in touch with members of the Revolutionary Guard.

Iran is considered the largest state-sponsor of terrorism in the world and has been subject to much criticism from the U.S. over recent years for the Islamic regime’s growingly harrowing human rights abuses. Most recently, President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran Nuclear Deal in May 2018 and subsequently reimposed a series of severe economic sanctions that had previously been lifted by the Obama administration. Notably, the statement concluded with:

“The Administration has directed its actions against the Iranian regime—not the Iranian people, who are the regime’s longest suffering victims”.

Critics of the move have pointed largely to the possible, and highly likely, negative repercussions from the Iranian government. Some U.S. officials are concerned that Iran may retaliate by attacking U.S. forces in the Middle East, such as forces stationed in Iraq or Syria. On the other end of the spectrum, Iranian activists in exile, such as journalist Masih Alinejad are supportive of the decision to categorize the revolutionary guard as a terrorist group, saying, “anything which weakens the IRGC is a step in the right direction.”

“There is a reason that successive administrations have held off designating the I.R.G.C. as a terrorist organization, and why many of Trump’s own military and intelligence officials are said to be highly opposed to the move: The potential blowback vastly outweighs the benefits,”said Jeffrey Prescott, a senior Middle East director at the White House National Security Council who had worked during the Obama administration.

The Misguided Critics

Some misguided critics of the designation have argued this designation, coupled with the economic sanctions are only making life harder for ordinary Iranians, rather than pushing the Islamic regime to democratize. This ill-advised neoliberal outlook on Iran seems almost entirely oblivious of the fact that the Islamic regime is no ordinary government, but a coalition of self-interested, corrupt, religious extremists who even if given the resources, would still not enact any policies that would benefit the Iranian people.

Most recently, criticisms have been directed at the West for not doing enough in providing aid relief to Iran during the devastating floods that have destroyed villages and killed dozens. Such critics have argued that this has been made worse by the “economic crisis in the country that has been enhanced by US sanctions”.

Pinning the blame on U.S. sanctions, which actually have very little to do with the influx of aid relief, to Iran to begin with, only detracts from the true culprit of the environmental crisis – the Islamic regime that is responsible for the environmental mismanagement that has caused the destruction from the floods itself. In a now-viral video, a man from a flood-stricken village asks a regime official why the regime spends money on resources in Syria but not for aid for flood victims, to which the regime official responds: “get lost, you anti-regime”.

Iranian foreign policy needs to be re-envisioned to understand that the internal politics of Iran are scarcely reflective of the needs or wants of the Iranian people. Iran is not a democracy and cannot be dealt with as such. Listening to Iranian’s struggles, whether they be expressed through Twitter or Telegram, and giving them more heed than the propagandist information spread by Iranian officials is the first step towards supporting Iran’s new revolutionary movement.