Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a news conference to announce the Trump administration's plan to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard a "foreign terrorist organization," Monday, April 8, 2019, at the U.S. State Department in Washington.
Trump said in a statement Monday that the move "recognizes the reality" that Iran is a state-sponsored supporter of terrorism and that the Guard is an active participant.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had also earlier lambasted the USA for its hostile policies against the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and warned of Tehran's robust response if Washington labeled the IRGC as a terrorist group.
Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, in the capital Tehran, on September 22, 2018.
A number of IRGC and affiliated entities have already been targeted by U.S. sanctions for alleged proliferation activities, support for terrorism and human rights abuses. From conflicts in Syria and Lebanon to Yemen and Venezuela, Iran's proxy groups that fall under the purview of the IRGC are covertly involved in terrorist operations that escalate chaos in support of their broader agenda.
"The leaders of Iran are racketeers, not revolutionaries", Pompeo said. "Thank you for answering another of my important requests that serves the interests of our countries and of countries in the region". "A (nother) unsafe US misadventure in the region", he wrote.
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"If the Guards is put on America's terror groups list, we will put American military personnel on the terrorist blacklist beside Daesh", he said on Saturday through his social media account, cited by Teheran Times, Iran's leading global daily.
The IRGC is also in charge of Iran's ballistic missiles and nuclear programmes.
A similar warning is also expected from the State Department of possible Iranian retaliation against American interests, including embassies and consulates, and anti-American protests, the first two USA officials said.
Trump, who describes himself as the most pro-Israeli US president ever, has recently recognized Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights, as well as previously moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem.
"In 2011, the IRGC Qods Force plotted a brazen attack on the Saudi Ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C., that was uncovered and thwarted".
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, for his part, criticised Trump's decision as "another risky U.S. misadventure" in the Middle East and a "misguided election-eve gift" to Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, Iran's regional archenemy.