The European Parliament has called for the European Union (EU) to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization, accusing the powerful force of brutally repressing anti-government protests and provision of armed drones to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine.
By Jonathan Hessen and Erin Viner
Ties between the West and Tehran have deteriorated in recent months – amid waning efforts to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear talks in Vienna, the Ayatollah regime’s detention of several European nationals, as well as rising international criticism over its ongoing violent crackdown and use of the death penalty against anti-government protestors including a dual British-Iranian citizen.
The European Parliament in Strasbourg has no power to compel the EU to blacklist the IRGC. The document, which is contained in an amendment to a resolution proposed by Polish conservative lawmaker Anna Fotyga, nevertheless represents a clear political message to Tehran.
The IRGC is an elite paramilitary force that was founded during the Islamic Revolution in 1979. It acts separately from the country’s armed forces, with its own land, air and naval divisions; and its Quds Force special operations unit works to foster the Islamic Republic’s terrorist proxies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
An overwhelming majority of 598 Members of Parliament (MPs) voted in favor of the amendment, nine voted against and 31 abstained.
Widespread mass anti-government demonstrations erupted in Iran after the 16 September 2022 death of Amini in custody following her arrest for attire deemed insufficiently Islamic. The public fury persists despite ultimatums issued by IRGC, which has crushed dissent in the past with the support of its volunteer Basij militia.
The European Parliament text condemned “the brutal crackdown by Iran, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), on the demonstrations after the death of Mahsa Amini, following her violent arrest, abuse and ill-treatment by Iran’s ‘morality police.'” It also called for the EU and its member states to include the IRGC on the bloc’s terrorist list “in the light of its terrorist activity, the repression of protesters and its supplying of drones to Russia.”
The designation would mean the freezing of any IRGC assets in EU member states, while membership or any economic activity linked to it would be considered criminal offenses.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen immediately praised the European Parliament adoption as “an important step in the face of Iran – which is the number one exporter of terror worldwide.” Jerusalem’s top diplomat thanked his European counterparts and Israeli staff at different foreign embassies who contributed to the action.
Brussels is also discussing the imposition of a fourth round of punitive economic measures against the Islamic Republic, while diplomatic sources have said members of the IRGC will be added to the EU’s sanctions list next week.
Several member states are insisting the bloc to go even further and classify the IRGC as a whole as a terrorist organization. The United Kingdom is expected to make such a decision in the coming weeks, and Germany is also reportedly considering such a move.
Canada, Israel, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United States have already officially designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization. In fact, is the only state entity on the US State Department’s blacklist of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).
EU High Representative Josep Borrell, who is also coordinator of the Vienna Talks, has systematically evaded numerous previous attempts by the European Parliament to debate the proposed amendment. Some parliamentarians were infuriated when he was reportedly seen hurriedly departing the plenum just ahead of Wednesday’s vote.
“It difficult not to interpret this behavior as a sign of disrespect to the parliament,” said MP Hannah Neumann, regarding Borrell’s rapid departure and failure to show up for three separate scheduled debates since November on claims of being ‘out of town’ despite being present in Strasbourg. “The European Union is a key player when it comes to Iran, and our High Representative is the coordinator for the nuclear program and the nuclear negotiations with Iran… So what we do here matters for the future of Iran and the Middle East,” stressed the German politician of the Alliance 90/Greens who has been serving as a MP since 2019.
Borrell’s office did not immediately respond to TV7’s request for comment.
Moreover, during an address to the European Parliament just ahead if the official plenary debate on Iran, the EU High Representative insisted, “We need to keep channels of communication open. We’ve got the nuclear treaty, the JCPOA – the infamous JCPOA – and I think that we have to do everything we can to make sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon and I don’t know any better way than the JCPOA.”
Despite Borrell’s evident obsession to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement – regardless of whether it is in Europe’s interest or not – European Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen has come out in support of holding the Islamic Republic of Iran accountable for its malign behavior.
The action of the Iranian regime are atrocious and horrible, and they are trampling fundamental human rights with their feet – so it is unbelievable what we are seeing, what is happening in Iran; and that needs a very strong message and a very strong reaction,” said the EC President earlier this week while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, adding, “And therefore, we are looking indeed at a new round of sanctions, and I would support also listing the Revolutionary Guards. I have heard several ministers asking for that and I think they are right.”
Additional world leaders and top diplomats at Davos and elsewhere have broadly stressed the need to confront the Ayatollah regime over its heinous actions.