U.S. declares Iran's guard force a 'terrorist organization'

Tehran's landmark Milad Tower is seen through a row of national flags in the center of the Iranian capital

Iran's Revolutionary Guard, designated a "foreign terrorist organization" by the Trump administration on Monday, evolved from a paramilitary, domestic security force with origins in the 1979 Islamic Revolution to a transnational force that has come to the aid of Tehran's allies in the Mideast, from Syria and Lebanon to Iraq.

Trump said in a statement that the "unprecedented" move "recognises the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft".

The designation makes it a federal crime for any USA company to do business with the IRGC.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, addressing reporters, said that all businesses and banks around the world "now have a clear duty" to cut off all dealings that involve the Revolutionary Guards.

"We will answer any action taken against this force with a reciprocal action", a statement issued by 255 out of the 290 Iranian MPs said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. USA military officials are justifiably concerned about putting more American troops in danger and igniting a conflict with Iran that could undermine the anti-Islamic State campaign in Iraq and Syria as well as Washington's diplomatic relationships in the region.

The US has already blacklisted dozens of entities and people for affiliations with the IRGC, but not the organisation as a whole.

US President Donald Trump has ratcheted up economic pressure on the Islamic republic since past year when he pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal Iran and major powers had reached in 2015.

He also said that IRGC Gen. Qasem Soleimani was responsible for killing 603 USA troops during the Iraq war.

Tensions between the two countries have grown since Mr Trump pulled the United States out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran last May and reimposed sanctions that had crippled Iran's economy.

Netanyahu, an ally of Trump, thanked the United States president and said it would help in "keeping the world safe from Iran aggression and terrorism".

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Zarif also blasted the U.S. move on Twitter, saying it was done to support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ahead of Tuesday's parliamentary election in Israel.

"The Administration's action will increase the financial pressure and isolation of Iran and deprive the regime of resources it uses for its terrorist activities", the White House said.

"No other country has the legal right to designate as terrorist another country's armed forces".

Ali Jafari spoke following a report by the Wall Street Journal that U.S. officials plan to designate the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization.

"This historic step will deprive the world's leading state sponsor of terror the financial means to spread misery and death around the world", he said, warning that businesses with a presence in Iran or engaged with its companies will have to take extra steps to ensure they are not violating USA sanctions.

Bahrain's Foreign Ministry welcomed the United States decision.

Another official said the force has "been a principal driver of violence on a vast scale for many decades" in an attempt "to reshape the Middle East in Iran's favor". Their primary role is internal security but experts say that the group - considered Iran's dominant military force - assist Iran's regular army, which has roughly 350,000 soldiers, with external defense.

The IRGC is also in charge of Iran's ballistic missiles and nuclear programmes. It has control over large sectors of the Iranian economy and has a huge influence in its political system.

American military commanders were planning to warn US troops remaining in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the region of the possibility of retaliation.

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