Iran Hosts Terrorist Groups as U.S. Mulls Terror Designation for Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

By Patrick Goodenough | February 23, 2017 | 4:22 AM EST

Iranian President Hasan Rouhani is flanked by Ramadan Shallah, leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad – a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization – and parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, at the ‘6th International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada’ in Tehran. (Photo: Iranian Presidency)

(CNSNews.com) – At a time when the Trump administration is considering designating the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization, the regime this week brazenly hosted leaders from at least five FTOs at a quadrennial event celebrating terrorism against Israel.

Hezbollah, Hamas, Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine delegations attended the two-day “6th International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada,” an event launched with a vitriolic speech by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, flanked at the opening ceremony by “moderate” President Hasan Rouhani.

Among participants was Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shallah, an FBI “most wanted terrorist” with a $5 million reward on his head.

Annual State Department reports on global terrorism consistently place Iran at the top of the list of terror-sponsoring states, with much of that activity blamed on the IRGC and its Qods Force.

Iran and the IRGC have long supported and supplied the groups, all of which are U.S.-designated FTOs (Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and PFLP since 1997, al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade since 2002.)

Khamenei lauded the five terrorist groups by name, in a lengthy address that described Israel as a “cancerous tumor” and “fake” nation, and its 1948 reestablishment of a state as a “dirty page in history which will be closed with the permission and assistance of Allah.”

A main theme of the conference was a call for Muslims everywhere to put aside whatever differences they have elsewhere, and throw their weight behind the “first priority” issue for Islam – the eradication of the Jewish state.

“Despite the differences that exist among Islamic countries – some of these differences are natural, some originate from the enemy’s plot and the rest are because of negligence – the issue of Palestine can and should be the pivot of unity for all Islamic countries,” the supreme leader said.

“Even if Muslim and freedom-seeking nations have different viewpoints and opinions, they can gather together with one goal which is Palestine and the necessity to liberate it,” Khamenei said, adding that there are signs of “collapse” in the Israeli government and of “weakness” in its main ally, the United States.

(Illustrating the stance that Palestine’s “liberation” means the end of the state of Israel, the conference venue was decorated with a large map showing the entire territory between the Jordan River and Mediterranean covered by a Palestinian flag.)

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Hasan Rouhani and other leaders at the opening ceremony of the ‘6th International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada’ in Tehran. (Photo: Office of the Supreme Leader)

The IRGC and its Qods force is the regime’s main conduit for sponsoring terrorism – including those named above and anti-U.S. terror militias in Iraq such as Khata’ib Hezbollah, another FTO.)

That activity has long prompted calls by U.S. lawmakers – in bipartisan initiatives – and others for the federal government to add the IRGC to the FTO list.

IRGC Qods Force and individuals in leadership posts are already designated on the Treasury Department’s List of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN List) – in part because of its support for FTOs including Hezbollah and Hamas – but FTO designation of the entire IRGC would have far-reaching implications, given its tentacles across key industries and sectors in Iran.

For instance, U.S. financial institutions would have to determine whether funds should be blocked for transactions benefitting parties that may be “agents” of the IRGC (and “agents” in the applicable regulations could include entities that act even indirectly on behalf of the IRGC.)

Companies outside the U.S. wanting to do business in Iran following the lifting of sanctions under the nuclear deal could also be at risk, should they violate the FTO-related restrictions, of heavy penalties including fines and lengthy prison terms.

The most recent congressional initiatives are identical bills introduced in the House and Senate last month, directing the secretary of state to submit to Congress a report on FTO designation of the IRGC.

The measures argue that the Iranian entity meets the criteria for designation: Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act requires a group to be (a) a foreign organization; (b) that “engages in terrorist activity or terrorism, or retains the capacity and intent to engage in terrorist activity or terrorism”; (c) if that activity threats U.S. nationals or U.S. national security.

(Similar bills introduced in the House and Senate last month seek FTO designation for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.)

Last week the exiled Iranian opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) released a report, based on its network of sources inside the IRGC, revealing that the IRGC has established at least 14 camps in Iran to train foreign terrorists, with hundreds of fighters from Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen undergoing training each month.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the NCRI’s Washington office, said the training “enables the IRGC to better infiltrate and advance the regime’s regional and global objectives.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow