(CNSNews.com) – Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on Sunday delivered a thinly-veiled threat to launch missile strikes on U.S. military bases in the region if the United States imposes new sanctions against the regime.
State media quoted IRGC commander Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari as saying that if the U.S. introduces new punitive measures under legislation signed by President Trump last August, the U.S. had better “transfer its regional bases to 2,000 kilometers away – that is, as far as the range of Iranian missiles.”
Both Jafari and other senior Iranian officials also warned against any additional move to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization. Unnamed U.S. officials cited in news reports suggest this may be on the cards.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s foreign policy adviser went to far as to say that the Islamic Republic of Iran would not exist if not for the IRGC.
The adviser, former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, called the IRGC a “holy” institution, without which the Assad regime and Iraqi governments would by now have been toppled; leaving ISIS in control of Baghdad and Damascus.
Before this time next week, Trump is required by law to report to Congress on whether Iran is complying with its obligations under the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders indicated on Friday that the president’s Iran strategy announcement would include a response to Iran’s behavior beyond the nuclear issue.
“He wants to look for a broad strategy that addresses all of those problems, not just one-offing those,” she said, pointing to Iranian ballistic missile launches, support for terrorism, and cyberattacks.
The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) targets Iran’s missile program and is also the first U.S. legislation ever to punish the IRGC specifically for terror-sponsorship.
It stops short of designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), but does instruct the president within 90 days to impose sanctions against the IRGC under Executive Order 13224, a directive issued after 9/11 to counter terrorist funding.
Trump reluctantly signed the bill – which also imposes sanctions on Russia and North Korea – arguing in a signing statement that it would limit the executive branch’s flexibility and drive the three rogue states closer together.
Nonetheless, he now seems ready to act under CAATSA as he unveils his new approach to Iran, following an interagency review first announced by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last April.
Jafari said Sunday Tehran would regard implementation of CAATSA as tantamount to a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA.
And, in response to the reports suggesting IRGC terrorist designation may be on the cards, Jafari warned that if the “stupid” administration took that step, Iran in response would start to treat the U.S. military in the region in the same way as it does ISIS – in other words, as a terrorist group to be targeted.
The U.S. maintains military bases in Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, and Afghanistan, and also has a sizeable military presence in Jordan, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
All are well within the 2,000 km missile range of Iranian territory, as referred to by Jafari.
Last June, the IRGC fired ballistic missile at purported ISIS targets in Syria, the first time Iran is known to have fired missiles beyond its national borders since its war with Iraq war in the 1980s.
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also responded Sunday to reports that Trump may designate the IRGC as a terrorist group, telling reporters in Tehran that Iran’s reaction to such a step would be “very harsh,” the Fars news agency reported.
Meanwhile President Hasan Rouhani dismissed the notion that Trump could undermine the nuclear deal.
Speaking at Tehran University, Rouhani said that the benefits Iran has garnered under the JCPOA were irreversible, and that even if there were ten Trumps they would be unable to roll them back.
Trump looks set to decertify Iranian compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA. That step would not mean killing the accord, but it could pave the way for Congress to reimpose sanctions that were lifted under it.