In a matter of days, President Donald Trump will roll out major components of his emerging Iran policy. He’s expected to announce that he will decertify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the nuclear deal with Iran, passing the buck to Congress on whether or not to re-impose sanctions on the country. So far, the administration has begrudgingly certified Iranian compliance with the deal twice.
Just two weeks later on October 30, Trump will also reportedly designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. He’ll do this despite the fact that the Guards are indirectly helping him accomplish another of his key objectives: defeating the Islamic State (ISIS). Indeed, the Guards have been a major force in the fight against the group in Iraq, and will remain a critical player there after ISIS. They are also a critical force in Afghanistan, another key theater for America.
But Trump’s designation, which could lead to the imposition of sanctions on the organization, is likely to significantly undermine Washington’s ability to coordinate or even deescalate with Tehran in places where they have both deployed forces. (And since the IRGC is already subject to U.S. sanctions, the impact will be more political than economic.) The Guards’ commander, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, already pledged to reciprocate by designating the U.S. military as a terrorist organization on par with ISIS. He’s also warned that his country would choose to settle regional issues not at the negotiating table but by other means. The Guards also flexed their muscles in the Persian Gulf, where their Navy conducted drills using over 100 rocket-launching speedboats, mining vessels, and missile launchers.