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    Middle East
     Oct 4, 2007
Page 1 of 2
Iran terror label bites deep
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

In the aftermath of the US House of Representatives' recent resolution branding the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as terrorist, the White House is reportedly poised to formally place it on the terrorist list of the US State Department, with ramifications to follow, such as a freeze on the IRGC's assets wherever the US can get its hands on them.

This is considered a small victory by anti-Iran hawks, who know the important side-effects of this initiative in inching the US closer



to war against Iran. Veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, meanwhile, has written about a "policy shift" in Washington. This involves a thirst for confrontation with Iran less on the grounds of Iran's nuclear program and more as a result of the situation in Iraq, where Iran has gained substantial influence, to the detriment of US-led coalition forces.

Justifying the anti-IRGC resolution in the name of an attempt to protect US soldiers, various lawmakers, such as Senator Joe Lieberman and Congresman Tom Lantos have accused the IRGC of supporting terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Israeli-occupied territories. They dismiss the small yet loud dissent by fellow legislators, such as Senator Chuck Hagel and Congressman Dennis Kucinich, that this is a misguided initiative that could increase the possibility of war with Iran.

The case for the designation of the IRGC as terrorists has been built on thin empirical grounds and even thinner legal grounds, and is bound to complicate the US's Iraq policy. The arguments against the move can be listed as:

1. Illicit use of the term terrorist: Following the United Nations' definition of terrorism as the use of violence against unarmed civilians for political objectives, it is difficult to see how the activities of the IRGC alleged by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan can be fitted into this definition. Per the recent testimony of top US commanders, the IRGC, particularly its elite Quds Force, has been giving arms and explosives to Shi'ite militias which, in turn, use them against US forces. Assuming this is true, given the fact that Shi'ite (or Sunni) militias opposed to the US military presence are not referred to by the US itself as terrorists, but "insurgents", the question is: Why then brand the Iranian backers of those insurgents as a step worse than those directly fighting the US, and name them terrorists?

2. Scant empirical proof: The US has until now failed to lay out the facts against Iran and that is one reason the senior leadership in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as certain members of the international community, are not going along with the US's accusations against Iran. A case in point is Chris Alexander, the deputy UN representative to Kabul, who had this to say recently: "We are, quite frankly, trying to encourage everyone to recommit to having a sense of proportion, to putting the reality of the insecurity of Afghanistan into proportion. That means not saying that Iran is the principle source of arms shipments to the Taliban. That's simply not true."

In Iraq, the US has reportedly apprehended a number of Iranian operatives linked to the Quds Force, yet none of those individuals, including the five doing consular work in Ibril until kidnapped by US special forces nearly a year ago, has admitted to the crime alleged by the US. Nor has the US military introduced any documents that corroborate the allegations. The question, then, is how to justify the IRGC's terrorist labeling in the absence of viable hard proof?

3. Questionable assumptions about the IRGC: Key to the designation of the IRGC's designation as terrorists is the assumption that it, and the Quds Force in particular, are "rogue" or "government-within-government" operatives. To paraphrase recent articles in the Washington Times and by the Council on Foreign Relations, they are "mafia-type" institutions. The problem with this is that, again, there is little about Iranian polity that endorses it.

The IRGC is very influential and some members of Parliament (Majlis), the cabinet, government ministries and local administrations have backgrounds in the IRGC. This actually shows the depth of integration of the IRGC (past and present) in formal government structures.

The much-scrutinized role of the IRGC in the economy, on the other hand, can be similarly interpreted as further support for the counter-argument that with the growing involvement of those guards in the formal and informal economy, their vested economic interests dictate more and more mainstream, as opposed to terroristic and subversive, behavior.

4. Questionable designation over Lebanon: Although the IRGC has played a prominent role in supporting Lebanon's Hezbollah since the early 1980s, calling the IRGC terrorists because of this is problematic. This in light of Hezbollah's powerful mass base, its political clout and its participation in parliamentary politics of Lebanon.

Hence, to designate Hezbollah as terrorist because of its occasional face-offs with the Israelis, is to turn this terminology into a propaganda tool that ignores important realities in the 

Continued 1 2 


Anti-Iran hawks win partial victory (Sep 29, '07)

Bush's 'proxy war' claim over Iran exposed (Sep 19, '07)


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