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Friday, August 17, 2007

Iran sanctions marks first time U.S. has branded another nation's military as terrorist

WASHINGTON The Bush administration sanctions on Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps would freeze IRGC assets found in the United States and prevent Americans and their companies from dealing with the Iranian military.

Officials said the IRGC, which controls much of the Iranian economy, would be deemed a "specially designated global terrorist," Middle East Newsline reported

This would mark the first time the United States designates a military branch of a foreign country a terrorist entity. So far, those on the U.S. terrorist list have comprised non-state organizations and individuals. Iran has long been deemed a terrorist sponsor by the State Department.

"IRGC is the spearhead of Iran's aggressive policy," an official said. "IRGC facilitates Iran's nuclear weapons program, missile program and support for terrorist groups. It is the most powerful element of the regime."

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[On Thursday, the U.S. military in Iraq reported the death of three IRGC officers in Baghdad. A military statement said the officers were killed during a successful U.S. raid to detain a senior member of the IRGC's Quds Force.] Officials said President George Bush plans to designate IRGC a terrorist group under Executive Order 13224. The measure, enacted in wake of the Al Qaida suicide air attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, allows the U.S. government to obstruct funding to individuals, businesses, charities and extremist groups deemed terrorist.

"We take unilateral actions where we can under a number of executive orders and laws that are on the books right now," State Department spokesman Scott McCormack, who refused to confirm plans to sanction IRGC, said on Wednesday. "You raise the cost to them in their ability to carry out these activities."

Under the administration plan, the United States could eventually sanction Western companies and governments that deal with IRGC. IRGC was believed to have established numerous fronts in Western Europe and Asia to procure dual-use and military components.

Officials said the administration decision ended a debate over whether to sanction IRGC rather than only its Quds Force. Quds Force has been identified as the foreign intelligence arm of IRGC and responsible for liasion with and aid to such groups as Fatah, Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad and Mahdi Army.

IRGC contains its own army, navy and air force. The corps has been responsible for strategic weapons development and deployment, including the Shihab-3 ballistic missile, with a range of 2,000 kilometers.

Congress has been pressing the administration to expand sanctions on Iran. Over the next few months, the House and Senate were expected to vote on the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act, which would target individuals and companies that help Iran's weapons and energy programs.

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