Amid expectations that U.S. President Donald Trump will decertify Iran's compliance with the long-negotiated and highly contentious 2015 nuclear agreement, there are indications that Washington could up the ante by taking steps to classify one of Tehran's most powerful institutions as a terrorist organization.
A move by the White House to direct the State Department to consider placing the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) on its Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) list could mark a significant strengthening of measures already in place against the IRGC, a powerful security and military organization that is a key component of Tehran's efforts to exert regional influence.
Reuters reported in February that the proposal could come in the form of an executive order, and has been described by the Financial Times as part of a "new hard-line strategy" by the Trump administration against the Islamic republic.
Why The IRGC?
The IRGC was created after the 1979 revolution to protect Iran's Islamic establishment against internal and external threats and preserve revolutionary ideals. Under the rule of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to whom to IRGC answers directly, its influence has increased.
Domestically, its forces have been involved in enforcing Islamic codes and crushing dissent, and the corps' intelligence branch is alleged to be behind the arrest of several Iranian-Americans.
But it is the IRGC's foreign activities that could land it on the U.S. list of FTOs. As the Trump administration has criticized Iran for failing to live up to the "spirit" of the nuclear deal worked out with world powers, under which Iran agreed to scale back its contentious nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, the IRGC's involvement in covert operations, arms smuggling, and other efforts aimed at expanding Iran's influence abroad has come under more scrutiny.