What Opponents of Sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Get Wrong

In addition to being responsible for much of the worst domestic repression, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) manages Hizballah and similar terrorist proxies and sends its troops to fight in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. On Monday, the White House officially designated the IRGC as a terrorist group—a move, Eli Lake writes, with real consequences:

There is a difference between saying a state is a sponsor of terrorism and calling an arm of a state an actual terrorist organization. . . . The threshold is now lower for proving that someone is providing material support to the IRGC. The designation also makes any non-Iranians who wittingly or unwittingly do business with the IRGC vulnerable to having their U.S. visas revoked. This is [a] powerful disincentive for Europeans [investing] in Iran, . . . because the IRGC’s tentacles reach into most aspects of Iran’s economy.

[T]here are two basic objections to this move. The first is that the designation may provoke Iran to target U.S. forces. . . . Already, Iranian government officials have promised a response to the designation. The mistake is thinking that pressure is any more provocative to Tehran than entreaties. In the days leading up to the final implementation of the nuclear deal in 2016, for example, the IRGC briefly took U.S. sailors hostage and released a humiliating video of the incident after they were released.

The second objection is that the designation further undermines the 2015 nuclear deal. A progressive group chaired by alumni of the Obama administration made this point; however, some see this objection as a point in the Trump administration’s favor. “It makes it much more difficult for a Democratic president to go back into the Iran deal in 2021,” says the Iran-sanctions expert Mark Dubowitz, who favors the designation. Any future administration would have to make [an official] determination that the IRGC was out of the terrorism business [before removing the sanctions].

Determining that the IRGC is no longer engaged in terrorism is about as likely as determining that the IRS is no longer engaged in collecting taxes. It’s in the organization’s nature. . . . Donald Trump’s strategy, unlike his predecessor’s, begins with the premise that Iran is an outlaw state—and treats it as such until it changes its behavior.

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Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Donald Trump, Iran, Iran sanctions, Revolutionary Guard, U.S. Foreign policy

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf