Iran declares USA 'state sponsor of terrorism'

Trump administration expected to designate Iran's IRGC as a terrorist group

The U.S. step, which takes effect April 15, prompted an immediate response from Iran, whose Supreme National Security Council in turn designated U.S. military forces as a "terrorist organization", Iranian state-run TV reported.

Trump said in a statement Monday that the move "recognises the reality" that Iran is a state-sponsored supporter of terrorism and that the Revolutionary Guard is an active participant.

The announcement comes shortly before the first anniversary of Trump's decision to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and to reimpose sanctions that had crippled Iran's economy.

The IRGC is estimated to have more than 150,000 active personnel, boasts its own ground forces, navy and air force, and oversees Iran's strategic weapons, including its ballistic missiles.

The Revolutionary Guards were also at the forefront of assisting Iraqi forces in defeating Islamic State extremists.

Iran employs terror as a tool of its government, through the IRGC, which "provides funding, equipment, training and logistical support to terrorist groups". Those who do business with the Guards could now receive up to 20 years in prison and be barred from entering or doing business in the United States.

This move-the first time the US has labeled an entity within another government as a terror organization-means any American conducting business with the IRGC could face criminal charges. The US decision to label IRGC as a terrorist organization is the latest in a series of American moves welcomed by Netanyahu, following the US decision to recognize the occupied Golan Heights in Syria as Israeli territory last month, and its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, opening an embassy there past year.

The Tehran Government also warned Mr Trump's "regime" the President's move may have stark repercussions and could endanger peace and stability in the Middle East and globally.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned banks and business of the new consequences of working with Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

The president added that the move was meant to "significantly expand the scope and scale" of pressure on Iran.

"We are sending. a clear message to Iran´s leaders, including Qassem Soleimani and his band of thugs, that the United States is bringing all pressure to bear to stop the regime´s outlaw behavior", Pompeo said.

"... the Revolutionary Guards will consider the American army to be like Islamic State all around the world."

He cited "overt and covert support of USA military forces in the region for terrorist groups and their direct involvement in terrorist acts", as reason to add CENTCOM to their list.

It cited what it said were IRGC terrorist plans that had been uncovered in Europe and Africa.

"We need to call out today's move for what it is: another unsafe and self-defeating tactic that endangers our troops and serves nothing but the Trump administration's goal of destroying the Iran deal", it said.

The decision, which Netanyahu claimed had come at his request, is the first time that an extension of a foreign government has been designated a terrorist entity by the US.

In a statement issued on Monday evening, the SNSC-that is headed by President Hassan Rouhani-condemned Washington's move, calling it "an illegal and unsafe action" that poses a "major threat to regional and worldwide peace and security and grossly violates the rules of global law".

The semi-official Fars news agency reported the statement by Iran's National Security Council on Monday.

Acting Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz also praised the decision, saying it will weaken Iran's ability to promote its nuclear program and its support for regional terrorism.

Zarif blasted the USA move on Twitter, saying it was timed to support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Tuesday's parliamentary election in the Jewish state. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

Iran has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if the USA tries to strangle Tehran's economy by halting its oil exports.

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