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The State Department Designates Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization

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On April 8, 2019, President Trump announced that his administration would designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This is the first time the United States has designated an arm of another government, rather than a non-state actor, as an FTO. In his announcement, Trump asserted that the Iranian government has used the IRGC to engage in a campaign of global terrorism. The measure, which officially took effect on April 15, expands on previous terrorism-related sanctions imposed on the IRGC and Iran.

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References

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1 Donald J. Trump, Statement on the United States Designation of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, 2019 Daily Comp. Pres. Doc. No. 212 (Apr. 8) [hereinafter Trump Statement].

2 Id.

3 Id.

4 U.S. Dep't of State Press Release, Designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Apr. 8, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/designation-of-the-islamic-revolutionary-guard-corps [https://perma.cc/GDA9-Q4M9] [hereinafter State Dep't Press Release]; see also In the Matter of the Designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (and Other Aliases) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, 84 Fed. Reg. 15278 (Apr. 15, 2019) (promulgating the designation).

5 8 U.S.C § 1189(a)(1) (2016).

6 18 U.S.C. § 2339B(a) (2016). Material support means “any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel . . ., and transportation, except medicine or religious materials.” 18 U.S.C. § 2239A(b)(1).

7 8 U.S.C § 1189(a)(2)(C).

8 8 U.S.C § 1182(a)(3)(B)(i)(IV)–(V).

9 U.S. Dep't of State, Foreign Terrorist Organizations, at https://www.state.gov/foreign-terrorist-organizations [https://perma.cc/7B9U-2XYA].

10 Id.

11 Id.

12 Cong. Research Serv., IN11093, Iran's Revolutionary Guard Named a Terrorist Organization 2 (2019).

13 Trump Statement, supra note 1.

14 Id.

15 State Dep't Press Release, supra note 4.

16 Id.

17 U.S. Dep't of Treasury Press Release, Treasury Designates the IRGC Under Terrorism Authority and Targets IRGC and Military Supporters Under Counter-Proliferation Authority (Oct. 13, 2017), at https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/sm0177.aspx [https://perma.cc/5QCB-DGPG] [hereinafter Treasury 2017 Press Release]. The Qods Force had received a similar designation a decade earlier. U.S. Dep't of Treasury Press Release, Fact Sheet: Designation of Iranian Entities and Individuals for Proliferation Activities and Support for Terrorism (Oct. 25, 2007), at https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/hp644.aspx [https://perma.cc/DF9G-LYG5].

18 Treasury 2017 Press Release, supra note 17.

19 U.S. Dep't of State, State Sponsors of Terrorism, at https://www.state.gov/state-sponsors-of-terrorism [https://perma.cc/CPZ8-ZNY5].

20 State Dep't Press Release, supra note 4.

21 See Elena Chachko, The U.S. Names the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a Terrorist Organization and Sanctions the International Criminal Court, Lawfare (Apr. 10, 2019), at https://www.lawfareblog.com/us-names-iranian-revolutionary-guard-terrorist-organization-and-sanctions-international-criminal (explaining that existing measures are already a “powerful deterrent” and that any prosecutions pursuant to the designation may face significant obstacles); Suzanne Maloney, What Both Trump and His Critics Get Wrong About the IRGC Terrorist Designation, Lawfare (Apr. 18, 2019), at https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-both-trump-and-his-critics-get-wrong-about-irgc-terrorist-designation (contending that “there is little reason to believe that [the designation] will prove a game-changer” but also conceding that the measure subjects individuals or entities to criminal prosecution); Afshon Ostovar, Designating Iranian Military Unit a “Terrorist Organization” Will Make U.S. Relations With Iran More Difficult. Here's How, Wash. Post (Apr. 8, 2019), at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/04/08/designating-irgc-terrorist-organization-will-make-us-relations-with-iran-more-difficult-heres-how/?utm_term=.c1d4b7d02529 (asserting that the designation may not add much to prior pressures imposed on Iran and could potentially prompt countermeasures).

22 Ostovar, supra note 21.

23 Amy Gearan & Carol Morello, Trump to Designate Iranian Military Unit as a Terrorist Group, Wash. Post (Apr. 8, 2019), at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-names-iranian-military-unit-as-a-terrorist-group/2019/04/08/1613f82e-5a01-11e9-842d-7d3ed7eb3957_story.html?utm_term=.e3be79749cb0.

24 Edward Wong & Eric Schmitt, Trump Designates Iran's Revolutionary Guards a Foreign Terrorist Group, N.Y. Times (Apr. 8, 2019), at https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/08/world/middleeast/trump-iran-revolutionary-guard-corps.html.

25 Deputy FM: US Strategic Mistake Against IRGC to Change Iranian Forces’ Behavior Towards Americans, FARS News Agency (Apr. 9, 2019), at http://en.farsnews.com/13980120000227.

26 Part 6: Iranian Officials React to IRGC Designation, Iran Primer (Apr. 11, 2019), at https://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2019/apr/09/part-6-iranian-officials-react-irgc-designation; Iran Designates as Terrorists All U.S. Troops in Middle East, Reuters (Apr. 30, 2019), at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-iran-rouhani/iran-designates-as-terrorists-all-u-s-troops-in-middle-east-idUSKCN1S61GB. U.S. Central Command is the combatant command within the U.S. military that focuses on the Middle East.

27 See generally Jean Galbraith, Contemporary Practice of the United States, 113 AJIL 173 (2019) (providing a more detailed discussion of the re-imposition of sanctions and also discussing a case brought by Iran against the United States in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in relation to these sanctions); Jean Galbraith, Contemporary Practice of the United States, 112 AJIL 514 (2018) (describing the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA).

28 Michael Pompeo, U.S. Dep't of State, Decision on Imports of Iranian Oil (Apr. 22, 2019), at https://www.state.gov/decision-on-imports-of-iranian-oil [https://perma.cc/6SZT-M2BP] (announcing that the United States would no longer grant temporary exemptions from the re-imposition of sanctions).

29 Exec. Order No. 13,871, 84 Fed. Reg. 20,761 (May 10, 2019). In another development in the spring of 2019, the ICJ ruled that it had jurisdiction over some claims in a case brought by Iran in 2016 challenging the U.S. use of Iranian assets to satisfy default judgments entered in U.S. domestic courts against Iran. Certain Iranian Assets (Iran v. U.S.), Judgment (Int'l Ct. Just. Feb. 13, 2019), available at https://www.icj-cij.org/files/case-related/164/164-20190213-SUM-01-00-EN.pdf.

30 Tamer El-Ghobashy, Michael Birnbaum & Carol Morello, Iran Announces It Will Stop Complying With Parts of Landmark Nuclear Deal, Wash. Post (May 8, 2019), at https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/iran-to-take-steps-to-reduce-its-commitment-to-landmark-nuclear-deal/2019/05/07/90cc3b1c-70fe-11e9-9331-30bc5836f48e_story.html?utm_term=.525819244bc3.

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