The European Union cannot list Iran's IRGC as a terrorist entity until an EU court has determined that they are, the block's foreign policy chief said Monday.
EU ministers, however, on Monday agreed on a new package of sanctions against Iran, the Swedish EU presidency said.
"Ministers adopted a new package of sanctions against Iran, targeting those driving the repression. The EU strongly condemns the brutal and disproportionate use of force by the Iranian authorities against peaceful protesters," the presidency said in a tweet, without giving further detail.
Spokesman of Iran foreign ministry Nasser Kanaani in Tehran had said earlier in the day that the Iranian government is not without option if the EU lists the IRGC as a terrorist organization. He added that any move against the Revolutionary Guard will be regarded as a hostile act against the security of the Islamic Republic and “its results will affect the offenders.”
Iranian officials, apparently concerned over a possible move by the EU following an overwhelming vote by the European Parliament last week, have been implicitly threatening the block with violent consequences.
The European Parliament has called on the EU to list the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist entity, blaming it for the repression of domestic protests and the supply of drones to Russia.
"It is something that cannot be decided without a court, a court decision first. You cannot say I consider you a terrorist because I don't like you," Josep Borrell, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, told reporters as he arrived for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
He said the court of an EU member had to issue a concrete legal condemnation before the EU itself could act.
There have been numerous Iranian terror acts in Europe, where courts have indicted top officials. In addition, IRGC’s record in organizing attacks elsewhere are well-documented. Critics say that Borrell is focused on re-starting nuclear talks with Iran after the previous long round of negotiations in 2021-2022 ended last September without success.
The United States has said it is not pursuing the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal, or the JCPOA, and instead its attention is on the popular movement in Iran and on Tehran’s supply of kamikaze drones to Russia.
The IRGC was set up shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to protect the Shi’ite clerical ruling system and provide a counterweight to the regular armed forces.
It has an estimated 125,000-strong military with army, navy and air units. It also commands the Basij religious militia, a volunteer paramilitary force loyal to the clerical establishment which is often used to crack down on anti-government protests.
Arriving at the same meeting, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the EU must talk about putting the IRGC on the sanctions list.
"We still see in Iran a brutal regime against its own population. The Iranian regime, the Revolutionary Guards terrorize their own population day after day," Baerbock said.
Tehran has also detained several European nationals and the bloc has become increasingly critical of its continuing violent crackdown on protesters and the transfer of Iranian drones to Russia.
The Iranian diaspora in Europe has become politically active since popular protests broke out last year and has been putting pressure on European politicians to act against the clerical regime in Iran.
With reporting by Reuters