- The Trump Administration has designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, marking the first time the U.S. has given the designation to part of a foreign government.
- This choice has received criticism from military leaders and the intelligence community, as it could set a dangerous precedent for U.S. foreign relations.
- Iran responded by classifying U.S. Central Command as a terrorist organization and promising further retaliation.
IRGC Designated As Terrorist Organization
The Trump administration announced Monday that the United States was designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization. The unprecedented move marks the first time the U.S. has ever named a part of another country’s government a foreign terrorist organization.
Iran’s IRGC is a military unit that was originally created after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 as security for Iran’s religious rulers. Since that time, the IRGC has become Iran’s most powerful security organization.
The IRGC has an estimated 125,000 personnel that compose army, navy, and air units. They also has control over Iran’s ballistic missiles and nuclear programs.
The IRGC owns a huge network of businesses that range from oil and gas to construction and telecommunication, essentially giving the unit unlimited political influence in business, real estate, and other sectors of the economy.
The U.S. blames the IRGC for facilitating the deaths of U.S. service member in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, because they have financed, trained, and given weapons to terrorist networks.
What Does This Mean?
In a statement released by the White House, Donald Trump said, “The IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.”
“This action will significantly expand the scope and scale of our maximum pressure on the Iranian regime,” said Trump, “This action sends a clear message to Tehran that its support for terrorism has serious consequences.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also addressed the situation in a press briefing, where he further elaborated on the reasoning behind the decision.
“We’re doing it because the Iranian regime’s use of terrorism as a tool of statecraft makes it fundamentally different from any other government,” Pompeo said. “This historic step will deprive the world’s leading state sponsor of terror the financial means to spread misery and death around the world.”
Pompeo also said that the designation will allow the IRGC to, “Take its rightful place on the same list as terror groups its supports.”
With the new designation, many are wondering what the label entails.
Much like Trump said, the designation, which is set to go into effect next week, will give the U.S. a huge scope of actions they can take against Iran. This includes imposing significant economic sanctions and travel bans on the IRGC and any organizations, companies, or individuals that might have ties to it.
It will also allow the Trump administration to bring criminal charges against the IRGC and any foreign officials that aid them.
Opposition From Military & Intelligence Officials
While the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization is new, it is something that has been debated for years because it is highly controversial in the military and intelligence communities.
The Trump administration has championed the move as a step forward in cracking down on Iran, but top Pentagon and C.I.A. officials strongly oppose the designation.
They argue that it is too strong of a hardline, and could allow Iranian officials to retaliate and justify dangerous and deadly actions against U.S. personnel abroad, especially Special Operations units and paramilitary units that work under the C.I.A.
The Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies are also concerned that the designation would prohibit all contact with foreign officials who may have met with or communicated with Guard personnel – a move that could severely damage diplomatic relations in the region.
U.S. military and intelligence officials also oppose the designation because it sets a dangerous precedent that other countries could use against the U.S.
Matt Levitt, the director of the counterterrorism program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the move could prompt Russia and China to start designating U.S. agencies by taking the same actions against the U.S. that the U.S. is taking against Iran.
Others, including an interagency lawyers group, have said the designation is too vague and broad. Some U.S. officials are saying the terrorist designation could include 11 million people, according to the New York Times.
Due to the fact that the IRGC itself is only about 125,000 of that number, the amount of people and organizations that have “ties” to the IRGC under the broad definition could be disproportionately targetted, including U.S. allies.
The Iraq Problem
For example, the designation will likely apply to officials in Iraq, which is a key U.S. ally in the region.
Iraq shares a border with Iran, and the two countries are major trading partners. Senior Iraqi officials are against the designation because it could impose travel bans and sanctions on some lawmakers in the government who have ties to Iranian officials.
U.S. officials are also worried that the move could encourage Iraqi parliamentarians to limit the movements and actions of 5,000 U.S. troops who are based in Iraq. This plan has been proposed before and is very popular in Iraq’s parliament.
If Iraq’s parliament felt as though the U.S. is unfairly restricting them, they could easily retaliate against U.S. troops in their country.
Additionally, U.S. troops and diplomats could be banned from contact with Iraqi authorities who interact with the IRGC and can give the U.S. important intel. That could complicate and even endanger U.S. operations in the region, and will most likely complicate U.S. efforts to stop a resurgence of ISIS.
“This isn’t about taking a tough approach to Iran’s support for terrorism,” said Jeffrey Prescott, a former senior Middle East director at the White House National Security Council, “Rather, it will put our service members in Iraq and throughout the region at additional risk with nothing to show in return.”
Prescott also argued that the backlash against the U.S. will be way worse than any potential benefits, saying:
“There is a reason that successive administrations have held off designating the I.R.G.C. as a terrorist organization, and why many of Trump’s own military and intelligence officials are said to be highly opposed to the move: The potential blowback vastly outweighs the benefits.”
Iran has already begun its retaliate against the U.S. designation.
Following yesterday’s announcement, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), which is a state-run news source in Iran, reported that Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called for Central Command to be deemed a terrorist organization, writing:
“Zarif in its letter referred to the US military forces’ covert and open support for the terrorist groups in the region and their direct interference in terror activities and offered the Supreme National Security Council to enlist CENTCOM in its terror list.”
According to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) declared the U.S. a “terrorist government,” and blacklisted CENTCOM.
Fars also reported this morning that Iran’s parliament ratified a bill that stated:
“All US military, security and intelligence forces active in West Asia and all real and legal persons representing them in West Asia region will be declared as terrorist and any financial, technical, training and service and logistical assistance to this group of forces is considered as collaboration in terrorist acts.”
The bill also aims to strengthen the IRGC.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is also the head of the SNSC, responded angrily to the designation in a televised statement.
“You want to use terrorist groups as tools against the nations of the region,” said Rouhani.“You are the leader of world terrorism.”
Other leaders in the Iranian government have threatened reciprocal action against the U.S. if they actually enforce the designation, including Iran’s Defense Minister and the IRGC General Commander.
The Trump Connection
Some people in both the U.S. and Iran have criticized the move as an effort to help Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the day before the Israeli election.
Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif referred to the move as an “election-eve gift to Netanyahu” in a tweet.
Netanyahu himself seemed to reinforce this idea, thanking Trump for this decision in a tweet.
Others have criticized Trump for a different reason.
Back in 2017, The New Yorker published an extensive investigative report that discovered the Trump Organization had been involved in building Trump Tower Baku a hotel in Azerbaijan.
According to the report, the hotel never opened, and was found “to be a corrupt operation engineered by oligarchs tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.”
Currently, it seems like Iran will take action against the U.S. if the designation does take effect, which is it set to do in about a week.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (NPR) (Fox News)
English Soccer Players Boycott Social Media for 24 Hours
- English soccer players are boycotting social media until 9:00 a.m. local time Saturday.
- The purpose of the boycott is to take a stand against the racism that players are experiencing during games and online.
- Teams like Manchester United have expressed support, as well as FIFA and retired player David Beckham.
Soccer Players Log Off Social Media
Professional soccer players in England are taking a stand against racism by boycotting social media for 24 hours.
The boycott began at 9:00 a.m. on Friday and will end on Saturday at 9:00 a.m local time. This boycott is part of a campaign by the Professional Footballer’s Association. The organization is using #Enough in response to recent incidents of racism both on and off the field.
“The boycott is the first step in a longer campaign to tackle racism in football,” the PFA said in a statement on their site. “The PFA will continue to work closely with The FA and government to ensure more is done to tackle racist abuse, while also seeking to put pressure on both FIFA and UEFA through FIFPro.”
Right before going offline, several players, as well as PFA, posted this image on Twitter and Instagram announcing why they would be taking a brief break from the sites. Many reported the caption, “We recognise that our platforms come with responsibility, and so we are using our voice to stand against racist abuse. Together, we are calling on social media platforms and footballing bodies to do more!”
Racism in Soccer
In the past couple of months, players have reported hearing people make racist remarks from the stands and online. Some of the comments include spectators making monkey noises, and being told to “go back” to their country.”
“My teammates and I have been on the receiving end of well documented abuse from a minority of narrow-minded, ignorant people both on social media and on the pitch,” said Troy Deeny, a captain for Watford, who is participating in the boycott. “Any racism in football is too much, and it’s essential that we fight it wherever and whenever we see it.”
Other players participating include Gini Wijnaldum, Jesse Lingard, Hector Bellerin, Lucas Perez, Marcus Rashford, and Alexander Iwobi.
Support for the Movement
FIFA has announced that they are supporting the movement. The organization, which has come under fire itself for not doing enough to combat racism in soccer, gave a statement applauding the players participating.
“We support the initiative of the PFA,” the statement read. “FIFA is fully engaged in combating racism and any form of discrimination not only in football but society in general.”
The organization also said that it is preparing its own campaign against discrimination.
Manchester United is also trying to take strides in fighting discrimination in the sport. While the team’s account is not participating in the boycott, it has retweeted the accounts of its players who are.
The team also posted this video where male and female players outlined instances of discrimination. They are using the phrase #AllRedAllEqual to spread awareness.
“Football is going through a time where we’re still seeing discrimination throughout our game,” the players in the video say. “There’s just no place for that. It’s ignorant.”
David Beckham also posted his support for the boycott. The former soccer superstar shared the “Enough” photo on his Instagram and posted it to his story as well.
Teen Burned Alive After Accusing Principal of Sexual Harassment
- An 18-year-old-girl in Bangladesh accused her principal of sexual harassment.
- An Officer filmed her accusation without her consent and leaked the video online.
- After refusing to take back her allegations, supporter’s of the principal murdered her by setting her on fire on campus.
- Organizations are demanding justice, and for sexual assault laws in the country to change.
Several organizations are demanding justice after an 18-year-old victim of sexual harassment was burned alive.
Nusrat Jahan Rafi studied at an Islamic school, called a madrasa, in Feni, Bangladesh. She met with the principal of the madrasa, Siraj Ud Duala, on March 27. Nusrat claimed that he repeatedly touched her inappropriately until she finally was able to leave the room. She reported the incident to police that same day.
The officer she reported the harassment to had recorded a video of her allegations without her consent and posted it online. In the recording, she is crying and tells Officer Moazzem Hossain that this is not the first time Siraj had made unwanted and inappropriate advances on her. According to translations by the Dhaka Tribune, Moazzem tells her these accusations are “nothing major.”
On April 6, Siraj’s supporters attacked Nusrat, and were allegedly encouraged to do so by Siraj. Four unidentified individuals took her to the roof of one of the madrasa’s administrative buildings and set her on fire after she refused to take back her allegations.
About 80 percent of her body was covered in severe burns. After spending four days in Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Nusrat died. According to the BBC, police have arrested 15 people, including Siraj, people potentially related to her murder, and people involved in protests on-campus in support of Siraj. Officer Moazzem has been transferred. There are also reports that he is being sued under the Digital Security Act for posting a video of Nusrat without her consent.
The Fight for Justice
Several organizations are fighting for justice. The Human Rights Campaign has called for a full investigation to be made into Nusrat’s murder. In a statement, they said this crime should “spur the authorities to take concerted action to combat sexual violence in the country.”
Transparency International Bangladesh also released a statement, asking that Officer Moazzem specifically be investigated by the Department of Justice for not doing enough about the case.
“We are scared of the allegation raised over inaction of the respective police officer and his connivance in the incident centering the brutal killing,” the statement read.
Thousands of people attended Nusrat’s funeral, and protests are being held all over the country demanding justice, and for laws regarding sexual assault in the country to change.
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, has responded to Nusrat’s murder.
“None of the culprits will be spared from legal action,” she said during a meeting with Nusrat’s family.
Sexual Assault Cases in Bangaldesh
Bangladesh does not have a strong history of punishing sexual abusers. A human rights organization in the country said there were 732 reported cases of rape in 2018, though they say the number is likely much higher, as a culture of blame encourages women to not report. Of those cases, just over 500 had cases filed.
In Bangladesh, there is also a clause in the Evidence Act of 1872 that states: “When a man is prosecuted for rape or an attempt to ravish, it may be shown that the prosecutrix was of generally immoral character.” This allows the defense to use the reputation of the victim against them, and potentially defame them to clear the defendant of charges.
See What Others Are Saying: (Dhaka Tribune) (Daily Star) (BBC)
North Korea Tests Weapons, Wants Pompeo Out of Nuclear Talks
- North Korea conducted its first weapons test since Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump met in February.
- It is unclear what kind of weapon was tested, but it is not believed to have been nuclear.
- A Director General in North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also announced that the country no longer wants to negotiate with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
- In a statement, the Director General said they wished to work with someone “more mature.”
North Korea Conducts Weapons Test
North Korean state media announced Thursday that the country tested a new weapon, and no longer wants to conduct nuclear talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The Korean Central News Agency announced that Kim Jong Un “supervised and guided a test-fire of a new-type tactical guided weapon conducted by the Academy of Defence Science on Wednesday.” This is the first known test the country has conducted since President Donald Trump met with Kim in February. The two did not reach any deals on nuclear negotiations.
While KCNA did not specifically say the type of weapon that was tested, the New York Times reports that there are no signs it was a nuclear weapon or an intercontinental ballistic missile.
According to their statement, Kim thought the test was “great work.”
“Our scientists, technicians and workers are, indeed, great,” KCNA added. “And there is no weapon impossible to make when they are determined to do.”
The White House reported to multiple news outlets that they are aware of the test, but gave no additional comments.
Pompeo Cut Off From Negotiations
After publishing the news of their test, KCNA also announced that, going forward, they do not want to discuss nuclear negotiations with Pompeo. The news came from a statement from North Korea’s Director General of the Department of American Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kwon Jong Gun.
In his statement, Kwon said that Pompeo made “reckless remarks,” talked “nonsense,” showed his “mean character” and accused him of “fabricating stories.”
“We cannot be aware of Pompeo’s ulterior motive behind his self-indulgence in reckless remarks,” Kwon said. “Whether he is indeed unable to understand words properly or just pretending on purpose.”
At the end of his statement, Kwon concluded that he wants to work with not with Pompeo, but with someone “who is more careful and mature in communicating with us.”
North Korea’s decision on Pompeo follows comments the Secretary of State made during testimony to a Senate subcommittee. When asked if he would consider Kim a “tyrant,” Pompeo responded, “I’m sure I’ve said that.”