More than 130 Democratic and Republican Congresspeople issued a letter Monday asking the European Union to designate Iran’s IRGC as a terrorist organization.
Referring to the multiple threats the group has posed internationally, including the attempted murder of author Salman Rushdie in the US and a plot to murder ex-Trump aide John Bolton, the group claimed that Iran remains a “leading state sponsor of terror”.
Proscribed by the US in 2019 under the Trump administration, the IRGC has been operating for decades across the EU, most recently, including a plot to murder Iran International journalists in London.
A recent study by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point showed that in the last five years Iran has instigated at least 33 plots to surveil, abduct, or assassinate citizens in Europe,” members of the US House of Representatives wrote in their letter.
Iranian communities in Europe and North America and several European and EU politicians and officials have been demanding that the EU and its member states should act to proscribe the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) in the aftermath of a deadly crackdown on protesters since September 2022.
Security forces under the command of the IRGC have killed well over 500 civilians during anti-regime protests, seriously injured hundreds of others and arrested more than 20,000. Among the detainees are hundreds of school children, women activists, journalists and artists.
The issue of adding the IRGC to the list of Europe’s terrorist entities became a rallying point for the Iranian diaspora, which launched online campaigns and held a large protest in Strasbourg on January 16 to lobby the European Parliament for passing the resolution.
Demonstration outside the headquarters of the European Parliament in Strasbourg in northeastern France to urge the European Union to list the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) as a terrorist organization on January 16, 2023
The European Parliament on January 19 overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on the EU and its member states to designate the IRGC as a terrorist group, but its resolution is not binding for the bloc’s executive bodies.
While several key EU countries, such as Germany and France have been saying they are looking into the matter, the European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has argued that such a step hinges on a legal determination by an EU member state court. However, critics believe the EU does not want to offend the Iranian regime, still hoping to open the way to a nuclear agreement with Tehran.
Congresswoman Kathy Manning (D-NC), Vice Ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair of the Europe Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Congressman Bill Keating (D-MA), Ranking Member of the Europe Subcommittee led the bipartisan letter.
The position of the Biden administration on the issue is not clear. There have been reports that Washington has asked the United Kingdom not to designate the IRGC, to keep channels open with Tehran with the hope of reaching a nuclear deal.
The EU and some member states have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Iranian entities and individuals also linked with the Revolutionary Guard in the past seven months, but designating the organization as a terrorist group has not happened.
“We strongly urge you, and your foreign affairs ministerial colleagues, to make the decision to fully sanction, penalize and delegitimize the IRGC, to help prevent them from further threatening democracy and freedom in the United States, Europe, and around the world,” the bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote to Borrell.
When the US designated the IRGC, Iranian negotiators part of the nuclear talks were demanding that the US should reverse its decision. The negotiations that the Biden administration began in April 2021 ended in a deadlock last September and since, the President has stuck by the designation.
In the wake of the collapse, the Islamic Republic has since supplied suicide drones to Russia that have been used against civilian targets in Ukraine, angering European countries and triggering several more rounds of sanctions.