Wednesday, April 10, 2019

What, exactly, is the downside of designating Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization?

Lots of people are criticizing President Trump's declaration of Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group, but the initial reasons given for such criticism are all over the place.

Which means that the reflexive reactions are more based on being anti-Trump than any sort of sober analysis.

Here are the reasons being given so far, besides Tulsi Gabbard's nonsensical claim that it will lead to World War III.

CNN has an op-ed that says:

Inside Iran, it is difficult to avoid doing business with the IRGC, IRGC-controlled or IRGC-linked entities. The White House's Monday statement says that, "If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism." Does this apply to a produce vendor who rents his stall from an IRGC-linked bonyad (a cross between a charitable foundation and a private equity fund)? What about the vendors' customers, who might be Iranian locals or foreign tourists? Are all visitors to Iran now responsible for determining the precise ownership of every hotel, restaurant and store that they patronize?
Difficulty to enforce all aspects of the designation is not really a reason not to do it. And if it is only enforced selectively, I don't think anyone will complain that the US is breaking its own laws.

The author also tries to use a gotcha argument:
And if the Trump administration thinks that it is easy to avoid dealing with the IRGC, I'd suggest it ask the Trump Organization, which, according to the New Yorker, worked with an IRGC-linked family on a building in Azerbaijan. The building suffered major damage in an April 2018 fire, and the story was quickly overtaken by the myriad other Trump administration controversies.
Maybe now the House of Representatives can, in the spirit of Monday's designation, investigate American firms that may knowingly have done business with the IRGC -- starting with the Trump Organization.
OK, go ahead! If anything this should make Trump's critics more supportive of the designation!

Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post adds some more comments from critics of the designation. From Michael Rubin:

The problem for Washington and those who value freedom and liberty in Iran is that if Iran is ever going to change, it is going to be essential to fracture the IRGC. That requires identifying its weak points and internal disputes and exacerbating them. There can be no informal reform so long as the IRGC remains intact as a Praetorian Guard for the supreme leader, nor will the regime collapse so long as the IRGC remains in power. ...

Designating the IRGC may satiate a segment of the American audience for whom hatred of the Islamic Republic of Iran runs paramount, but it will be counterproductive if it, first, allows the IRGC to consolidate itself and, second, substitutes for the far more difficult problem of fracturing the organization and encouraging defections from within its ranks.
Since Rubin admits that the US has failed at fracturing the IRGC up until now, what evidence does he have that this designation will make it more difficult, rather than easier, to accomplish that?

Singh argues in a similar vein, “The real questions to which the FTO designation gives rise are twofold: first, how will it be applied to what is essentially a state military with hundreds of thousands of members and millions of veterans?” He observes that the second issue is akin to the Obama administration’s unfulfilled declaration that “Assad must go” regarding Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. The administration “having framed the designation as an unprecedented step, the U.S. must show that it will appreciably add to the pressure on Iran, or the political impact may be the opposite of what was intended.”
Psychologically, it already has added pressure to Iran.  It will allow the US to increase financial pressure, and the existing pressure is already hurting the Iranian economy and slowing down their support for terror groups. What is the downside?

Veteran Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross says: “It is a symbolic move. Practically, it does not add to the designations by Treasury of the IRGC and its front companies.” He explains, “Given how embedded the IRGC is in the Iranian economy, the risk of being subjected to US sanctions because of the Treasury designations was already very high. And, as we have seen, this already had chilling effect on international companies that might have sought to do business in Iran.”
And that is a bad thing because....?

The main arguments seem to be "we don't know what this means."

But even the critics agree that the designation is accurate; The WaPo article spells it out:

There is little doubt about the accuracy of the designation. Michael Singh of the Washington Institute tweeted: “I’ve sat through many interagency debates on whether to designate the IRGC as a [Foreign Terrorist Organization]. What was never on dispute: the IRGC is a prolific and ruthless supporter and perpetrator of terrorism.

Michael Rubin (no relation) of the American Enterprise Institute agrees that “there’s the simple fact that the IRGC is responsible for the deaths of more than 600 Americans in Iraq, and the maiming of many times more. If the IRGC were a formal and declared combatant in Iraq, that might be one thing, but Iranian leaders with American diplomats and agreed to keep the IRGC out of Iraq. They violated that agreement by waging combat while not in uniform and while shielded by civilians.”
 If everyone agrees that the IRGC indeed supports terrorism, what is wrong with saying so out loud?

If Obama would have done this, all of these supposed criticisms would evaporate (to be replaced no doubt with similar ones from the other side of the aisle.) Which shows that the real reason there is opposition to this is because of Trump, and nothing else.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.