EU’s IRGC Terrorist Designation Push Makes A Mockery Of The Term
By playing around with the word and labeling anything as a terrorist organization for purely political reasons, it undermines the ability of the countries to combat real terrorist groups.
The European Union is said to be studying the possibility of proscribing Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, a move which would mimic the US State Department’s decision under former President Donald Trump. Although the EU claims to be doing this under the guise of human rights, it represents an immature political stance laced with double standards.
According to Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, both Berlin and Brussels are mulling over the possibility of adding Iran’s IRGC to its designated foreign terrorist organization lists. Provocative claims like these, which began to emerge in late October, come at a time when Western governments have been working to undermine and delegitimize Tehran, over alleged human rights abuses that are said to have been committed during the recent civil unrest in Iran. In addition to this, NATO member States have lashed out furiously at the Islamic Republic, making a number of claims about the usage of Iranian drone technology against Ukraine by Russia and calling for a UN investigation into the issue.
After the US and EU both imposed a slew of sanctions on Tehran, as an alleged reaction to Iran’s handling of demonstrations and riots inside its own borders, the Islamic Republic fired back, sanctioning individuals and institutions in both the EU and US. Whilst the Western powers claim that their measures, which continue to collectively punish Iranian civilians, are carried out purely based on their human rights concerns, Iran claims that they are waging an economic war and interfering in internal Iranian affairs.
As is evident from the above back-and-forth sanctions, imposed by the West and Iran, on each other in recent weeks, the nature of the back-and-forth is clearly political. Iran is taking the approach of fighting fire with fire, by imposing symbolic sanctions of its own, whilst the EU and US are imposing sanctions for the purpose of weakening their international adversary. This is why the issue of the EU studying the possibility of proscribing the IRGC as a terrorist organization, can also be clearly understood to be political and not based upon any human rights concerns.
To begin with, we have to look at what the EU considers to constitute terrorism, this is our starting point with the current discussion. According to European Union law, terrorist acts are committed with the goal of;
“seriously intimidating a population; unduly compelling a government or international organization to perform or abstain from performing any act; seriously destabilizing or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organization”.
The EU definition of what constitutes terrorism is extremely broad, as is the US State Department’s definition, under Executive Order 13224, which states explicitly:
“For the purpose of the Order, “terrorism” is defined to be an activity that (1) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, property, or infrastructure; and (2) appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, kidnapping, or hostage-taking.”
These two definitions are integral to the discussion because the US has already declared the IRGC a terrorist organization, as the EU may also announce it will do too. If we look at both of these definitions, what we see is a framework with which pretty much any government agency that is involved in the use of force, anywhere in the world, could be characterized as a terrorist group. The reason why we don’t currently see talks of government agencies, or offshoots of the military of different countries - currently accused of being terrorist organizations and dealt with as such around the world - is due to an understanding that terrorism is to be confined to define non-State actors.
The IRGC is most certainly part of the Iranian State and is considered to be a branch of Iran's armed forces. When the US Trump administration first declared the IRGC to be a terrorist organization, what it did was break with international consensus on the issue of terrorism. At this time, anyone that is politically savvy understands that the US is truly calling the shots as it regards EU foreign policy, therefore it is likely that Washington is behind the EU move to study taking such a decision against the IRGC. This will mean that the majority of the Western world will break the international consensus on terrorism if this decision goes ahead.
What the move will lead to, is making a complete mockery of the term ‘terrorist organization’ and will inevitably lead to a backlash where the Global South, and perhaps Russia or China, may eventually take measures to define Western government agencies, and/or branches of their militaries, as terrorist organizations. This backlash is not promised and may not come immediately, but now that the West is starting to go after “State terrorism”, the arguments against the West's usage of tactics, easily defined under their own definitions to be terrorist acts, will come up. In Western corporate media and coming from the mouths of Western officials, has long been talking of “State-sponsored terrorism”, now we are turning that directly into, in all but name, labeling nations as “terrorist States”. Ukraine has recently called Russia a “terrorist State”; this being the case, if the EU takes such a measure - proscribing the IRGC as a terrorist group - this may provide Moscow with a valid argument to label the Ukrainian military as a terrorist organization, for instance. If this is to occur and the West is unified on calling the IRGC a terrorist group, then it would be the height of hypocrisy for them to then complain about Russia’s new designation.
Of course, two can play this game. The West and its allies have committed such atrocities all over the world, that listing them all would require a lifetime. Since the end of the second world war, the most violent country on earth has been the United States of America and none of its competitors even come close to matching it.
By playing around with the word and labeling anything as a terrorist organization for purely political reasons, it undermines the ability of the countries to combat real terrorist groups like Daesh and Al-Qaeda, to name the most infamous. Terrorism has always been a term that has been politicized, used by the West since the Cold War in order to delegitimize the struggles for independence of the oppressed masses of the Global South, however, attaching the label “terrorist” to countries, or their armed forces, really makes the whole issue completely arbitrary. Yet, in this New Cold War era, the West may just be opening up a positive chapter in taking such a move, because now there may be space for laying the grounds for defining the likes of the Israeli Mossad as a terrorist organization, for instance.
Lastly, to call the IRGC a terrorist organization, after it essentially crushed Daesh in Iraq and helped to defeat it in Syria, is the height of political flippancy. In the cases of groups that are unanimously accepted, internationally, to be terrorist organizations, the IRGC has, or is currently, fighting them. It just so happens, however, that the main General who led the fight against Daesh on the ground in Iraq, Qassem Soleimani, was assassinated in an illegal drone strike ordered directly by former US President Donald Trump. In the world that we now live in and using the definitions of terrorism set out by both the EU and US governments, Donald Trump should be considered a terrorist and if you don’t agree with that, then in order to be consistent, one must certainly oppose labeling the IRGC as a terrorist organization. The alternative is a world in which there is no consensus, enemy States will label governments that constitute their adversaries to be terrorist organizations and the term itself will lose all meaning.