Persian Gulf Will Become 'Hell' for Iran's Enemies, Iranian Official Says

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

( - The Persian Gulf will become "hell" for the enemies of Iran if they attack the Islamic republic, a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps official warned Sunday, stepping up Tehran's belligerent rhetoric over reports that Washington may add the IRGC to a terrorist list.

"Given the present power of the IRGC, in case enemies intend to invade the Islamic Republic borders in the Persian Gulf waters and start military confrontation, the Persian Gulf will become a hell for them," Ali Razmjou, regional commander of the IRGC's naval force, told the Fars News Agency.

"Using modern tools and equipment, none of the moves and threats made by the enemies is hidden to us in the Persian Gulf," he said, citing torpedo vessels and long-range missile launches.

Last week U.S. officials said the Bush administration was considering designating the IGRC as a terrorist group under an executive order designed to block the assets of terrorists and those who help them. Iran's Revolutionary Guard is a controversial force that operates alongside the regular Iranian military.

The U.S. military has accused the IRGC of supporting and arming insurgents fighting coalition forces in Iraq, and it says Iran has supplied deadly types of armor-penetrating roadside bombs that have cost numerous American lives.

Tehran has denied the charges, but on Sunday the commander of American forces in the region south of Baghdad, Major-General Rick Lynch, told reporters that about 50 IRGC members were believed to be "facilitating training of Shi'ite extremists" inside Iraq.

Lynch said the accuracy of bombs and mortars used by Shi'ite insurgents had increased, and that Iranian munitions were somehow "making their way into the hands of Sunni insurgents" as well.

Although American forces had not captured any weapons shipments crossing the border from Iran, he said, his troops had seized more than two hundred weapons bearing Iranian markings over recent months.

Tehran has reacted strongly to reports about the possible blacklisting of the IGRC. If the move goes ahead, it will be the first time the administration has used the post-9/11 executive order 13224 against a branch of a foreign government rather than a non-state group or individual.

On Sunday, speaker of the Iranian parliament Ali Haddad Adel was the latest senior official to heap praise on the IGRC, calling it an effective defender of the Islamic revolution.

Earlier, the Iranian newspaper Kayhan quoted IRGC commander Yahya Rahim Safavi as warning that Iranian missiles could hit warships operating anywhere in the Persian Gulf and in the Oman Sea -- the body of water lying between the Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

Last March, an IRGC naval unit apprehended British sailors in the Persian Gulf, claiming they were in Iranian waters, and held 15 of them hostage for 13 days before President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he was releasing them as a "gift" to the British people.

Apart from its military focus, the IGRC has been playing an increasingly important economic role at a time Iran faces some U.N. sanctions over its nuclear program.

In a speech last June, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said "the IRGC is so deeply entrenched in Iran's economy and commercial enterprises, it is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran, you are somehow doing business with the IRGC."

As the U.S. pushed for a third U.N. Security Council resolution targeting Iran -- earlier ones were passed in December 2006 and March 2007 -- it was increasingly focused on the role of the IRGC, Paulson said.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow