The Bush administration's decision to designated Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the elite military arm of the radical Islamist regime in Tehran, as a "specially designated global terrorist" (SDGT) organization strikes a huge blow against one of the world's most deadly jihadist groups. The IRGC, through its longstanding relationship with Hezbollah, has the blood of hundreds of Americans on its hands — among them the 241 American servicemen who were killed in the Oct. 23, 1983, bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. In essence, SDGT designation will treat the Revolutionary Guards, who are heavily involved in obtaining nuclear weapons technology and supporting terrorist organizations, much the same as the Cali and Medellin drug cartels, making it possible to move relatively quickly to seize the organization's business assets — which are substantial. Federal officials said that the IRGC would become the first military branch of a national government to be included on the terrorism list — which generally consists of non-state actors.
Earlier this year, Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (a former deputy assistant secretary of the treasury specializing in terrorism-finance issues) wrote in The Washington Times that "applying targeted financial measures against the IRGC represents the kind of regime-hostile, people-friendly sanction that punishes those engaged in offensive behavior without harming the average Iranian citizen... Moreover, the IRGC controls vast financial assets and economic resources. While most of the actual funds and assets are in Iran and beyond seizure, the IRGC's business and industrial activities — especially those connected to the oil and gas industries — are heavily dependent on the international financial system." In other words, these are precisely the kind of projects where Iranian regime elites are vulnerable to American and international economic pressure. These Revolutionary Guards projects include a contract worth $1.3 billion to build parts of a pipeline and another worth more than $2 billion to develop part of the South Pars natural-gas field.
The IRGC — which reports directly to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — operates its own navy and special-forces units, in addition to an air force and ground force. A strong case could be made that the SDGT designation should have been made right after the bombing of the Marine barracks nearly 24 years ago: Steven Perles, an attorney representing relatives of the slain Marines in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against the Iranian government, told us yesterday that the U.S. government has electronic intercepts proving that IRGC operatives drove the truck that carried out the bombing, and that Hezbollah's role was a secondary one — assisting the Revolutionary Guards in staging the Beirut Marine barracks bombing. (Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rose through the ranks of the IRGC starting in the 1980s.)
More recently, the IRGC — and in particular, a section known as the Quds Force — has been heavily involved in aiding Hezbollah, as well as Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The force is also involved in facilitating the increased flow of rockets and roadside bombs to both the Taliban in Afghanistan and Iranian Shi'ite and Sunni jihadists. At a press conference last month, U.S. military officials in Iraq said that the Quds Force is bringing groups of up to 60 Iraqi insurgents at a time to training facilities near Tehran, where they are taught how to carry out kidnappings and use rockets and improvised explosive devices to kill and maim American troops. American officials also say that the IRGC is responsible for smuggling explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) into Iraq. The EFPs, which can penetrate the armor of a Humvee and are used almost exclusively by Shi'ite militias, accounted for one-third of the combat deaths suffered by coalition forces last month. The 99 strikes that occurred with EFPs in July were the highest total since the war began.
Earlier this year, Mr. Khamenei vowed to hit back at U.S. interests worldwide if Iran were attacked. That very day, the IRGC (the military/terrorist arm of the regime that would in all likelihood carry out such attacks) staged air and naval exercises in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman. By hitting the Revolutionary Guards with sanctions, the Bush administration is weakening their capacity to finance more terror, and clearly it hopes to shame the Europeans and the Japanese in cutting their financial ties to these serial killers of Americans.