On 8 April, US President Donald Trump announced the US government was designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) including Quds Force (IRGC-QF) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). “This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” stated President Trump. As part of established measures against FTOs, it will be considered a criminal offense to provide material support to the IRGC after the designation goes into effect on 15 April. This will include pressures against the international commercial and banking sector to cease support for financial transactions connected to the IRGC.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded to this “vicious move” and threatened to retaliate against US forces in the region. “In spite of all the pressure over the past 40 years, Americans have failed to do a damn thing and their vicious move will bear no fruit.” The Iranian government retaliated by designating the US a “terrorist government” and US Central Command (CENTCOM) as a terrorist organization, with the Iranian military warning US naval forces in the Persian Gulf to keep their distance from IRGC vessels. Threats influential to this key waterway form an established component of escalations in tensions involving enduring tensions between the US and Iran.
Further to previous discussion, increased anti-US posturing is possible in Iraq over the near-term. This includes the extant possibility of indirect fire attacks against US government and military facilities through Iranian proxies, particularly in central and western Iraq. Examples included indirect fire attacks against the US Embassy in Baghdadand the US Consulate in Basra in 2018, which ultimately lead to the closure of the diplomatic mission in Basra. More recently, on 2 February, ISF found three 122mm Grad rockets north of Hit. The rockets were directed towards Al Asad Air Base as the apparent target. This incident coincided with Iranian supported PMF officials calling for a parliamentary vote intended to demand the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.