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EU to list Iran’s IRGC as a terrorist entity?

As part of the EU’s response to Iran’s crackdown on protesters following the death of Mahsa Amini in custody, the EU is discussing additional sanctions against Tehran, including the listing of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist group. The IRGC has played a key role in the Iranian authorities’ repression against protesters. The EU is also considering fresh sanctions against nearly 40 Iranian individuals and entities. Germany, France and the Netherlands are reportedly pushing for the EU to designate the IRGC as a terroprist group, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the move “is politically important and makes sense”. France has also kept the door open to the idea. “Given the continuation of this repression, France is working with its European partners on new sanctions measures, without excluding any,” the French foreign miniustry’s spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre told journalists.

Mahsa Amini died in prison after the Iranian morality police detained her for not wearing the Islamic scarf. The U.S. has already designated the IRGC as a terrorist group and the UK is set to follow suit soon. The new EU sanctions are expected to be finalized during a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers, the so-called Foreign Affairs Council, on January 23. The EU list of terrorist entities includes some 20 organizations, including Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group, Hamas and the armed wing of Hezbollah, supported by Iran.

More than 100 members of the European Parliament have called on the European Commission and EU member states to add the IRGC to the EU’s terror lists and increase sanctions on Tehran. The European Parliament is holding this week its plenary session in Strasbourg where it is expected to vote a resolution calling for these sanctions. The vote on the resolution would not be binding, but it would put political pressure on EU member states. A debate on this issue is scheduled for Tuersday with EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell. Designating the IRGC as a terrorist group would mean that it would become a criminal offence to belong to the group, attend its meetings and carry its logo in public.


The IRGC was formed after Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979 and has become a major military economic force in the country, also controlling Tehran’s nuclear and ballistics programme and funding terrorist operations and assassination plots elsewhere in the region and in the world. It was formed primarily for two specific goals: defending the regime and exporting the Islamic revolution to neighboring countries through terrorism. Its influence has increased under the rule of current President Ebrahim Raisi, who took power in 2021.

The IRGC continues to expand its influence in Iraq, Afghanisatn, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen through its external arm, the Al-Quds Force. “Proscribing the IRGC as a terror organization by the European countries represents a robust political stance, serving multiple purposes: protecting human rights in Iran, preventing further terror attacks in Europe, and punishing the Revolutionary Guards for arming Russia and participation in war in Ukraine,” writes Farhad Rezaei, a research fellow at Center for Iranian Studies (IRAM) in Ankara. On Sunday, the EU condemned “in the strongest terms” the execution in Iran of Iranian-British national Alireza Akbari and recalls again its strong opposition against the application of capital punishment in any circumstance.

“The European Union offers its condolences to Mr Akbari’s family and expresses its full solidarity with the United Kingdom. The execution of a European citizen is an appalling precedent that will be followed closely by the EU,” a statement said. “The death penalty violates the inalienable right to life enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment,” it said. In Iran, four men have already been hanged in December 2022 and early January in connection with the protests against the regime. About fifty are at risk of the same fate.


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