The Trump administration's April 8, 2019 designation of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terror Organization (FTO) evoked harsh responses from the Iranian regime. On April 9, the Iranian Majlis retaliated by designating the U.S. military as “terrorist.” Iranian spokesmen stressed that the U.S. move would not affect Iran or the IRGC, and that the latter would continue to gain strength, and some stated that, from now on, the IRGC would indeed regard the U.S. forces as terrorists and as legitimate targets. However, past experience indicates that the Iranian regime will not hurry to risk its forces in a direct attack on U.S. troops or interests, but will prefer to employ the Shi'ite militias it controls outside Iran.
As stated by the regime mouthpiece Kayhan in an April 10, 2019 article, the U.S. move is intended to undermine Iran's economy and weaken the economic power of the IRGC, even outside Iran, i.e., to diminish Iran's influence in the Middle East (for more on the goals and impact of the U.S. designation of the IRGC as an FTO, see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1449). It added that this "psychological warfare" by the U.S. must be met with the harshest possible response, namely with military exercises simulating the sinking of U.S. vessels in the Persian Gulf.
This report presents the main Iranian reactions to the designation of the IRGC as an FTO.
Khamenei: "The Republic's Enemies Are Headed Towards An Abyss"
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said: "The U.S. and the ignorant enemies have been exerting all their powers [against Iran] for 40 years, but to no avail. Today the arms of the [Iranian] revolution and regime have reached the region and the world. The deluded Americans are plotting against the IRGC, and actually against the [Islamic] revolution and Iran. This evil will obviously get them nowhere... The enemies of the Islamic Republic, such as Trump and the idiots that surround the U.S. administration, are headed for the abyss."
Following the U.S. announcement, Iranian Majlis members don IRGC uniforms as show of support (image: Tehran Times, Iran, April 9, 2019)
IRGC Commander Jafari: The IRGC's Defense And Invasion Capabilities Will Only Grow
IRGC Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari warned on April 7, 2019 that designating the IRGC as a terror organization would "harm Iran's national security" and bring in its wake "disquiet for American forces in the region." In an April 9 meeting with Iranian Army Chief-of-Staff Abdolrahim Mousavi, he said: "The IRGC's honor does not originate in the U.S. and therefore will not be harmed by these decisions. This move definitely harms [the Americans] and increases support for the IRGC... The stupid American officials who consented to this move may rest assured that, in the course of this year, the IRGC's defense and invasion capabilities will grow greater than they are today, and the growth of the IRGC will prove to the world that the American sanctions have no effect whatsoever."
Army Chief-of-Staff Mousavi: "We Have No Choice But To Humiliate Our Enemies"
Mousavi said at the meeting: "We have no choice but to humiliate our enemies. [The Americans] must look at the humiliating pictures of their troops and avoid placing themselves in [another] situation that will end in humiliation [for them]."
IRGC Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari with Iranian Army Chief-Of-Staff Abdolrahim Mousavi (image: ISNA, Iran, April 4, 2019)
Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaee tweeted: "Mr. Trump, don't let your aircraft carriers come near IRGC vessels."
Majlis National Security Committee Member Hosseini: "America Has A Presence In This Region, And It Understands What We Mean [To Imply By That]"
Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, member of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, stated in a televised interview that "the U.S. decision violates the international law... We will regard the American forces as terror organizations. We will treat them the same way we treat Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and this will have dangerous consequences for the U.S...
"In 2019 the Americans intend to maximize their pressure on Iran and to bring Iran's oil sales down to zero. They want to block all the Islamic Republic's advantages by means of sanctions. They want to curb all our immense capabilities, and the IRGC is one of Iran's capabilities. Designating it as a terror organization is part of the puzzle of the U.S. [strategy] aimed at increasing the pressure on Iran, for the Americans believe that the IRGC has economic, cultural and political clout...
"Iran is present everywhere in the region and has abilities, forces and tools. America has a presence in this region [as well], and it understands what we mean [to imply by that]."
National Security Committee Member Boroujerdi: "Washington's Troops Will Not Be Secure In The Region"
Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee member Alaa Al-Din Boroujerdi said, immediately following the U.S. announcement, that "the Islamic Republic will respond firmly to America's foolish decision to place the IRGC on the terror list, and this response will be carried out as soon as possible... This political [move] is America's retaliation against the IRGC for its strategic role in defeating ISIS... Washington is the one who will be harmed the most by this decision, and its forces will not be secure in the region."
Deputy Foreign Minister Araghchi: As Far As We Are Concerned, The U.S. Troops Are Terrorists And Their Bases Are Terror Bases
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said on the Channel Two news: "American troops patrol the Persian Gulf [although] the task of guarding it belongs to the IRGC, and therefore new incidents are likely to occur. America has crossed one of Iran's major red lines. Its latest decision [to designate the IRGC] could have many consequences. From now on, the American troops and their bases in the region are no longer considered 'American troops.' As far as we are concerned, they are terrorists and terror bases, and from now on we will treat them accordingly, [so] we are headed for new circumstances. Earlier, we conveyed a direct message to America via Switzerland, that if the IRGC is designated as a terror organization, we would retaliate in kind, [and] America will be the one responsible for this action of ours. This latest American move is a political and strategic mistake."
Kayhan: Trump's Decision Is A Death Warrant For U.S. Troops
Kayhan's April 9, 2019 front-page article, headlined "The U.S. President Has Issued a Death Warrant for U.S. Troops," stated that "the stupidity of the new U.S. president is limitless. His latest unforgettable act of foolishness has been to designate the IRGC as a terror organization. With this move he has [virtually] issued a death warrant for U.S. troops [in the region]. This means that Trump will never forget the bitterness of this stupidity."
Front page of Kayhan's April 9 issue
Kayhan's April 9 editorial, titled "Mr. Trump! Picture a Coffin," stated that "this [American] decision will have particular and grave consequences for the American forces. With this action Trump is in essence toying with the lives of his thousands of troops in the region. Before signing this order Trump should have taken another look at the photo of his navy troops who entered Iran's territorial waters [in January 2016] and surrendered [to IRGC forces]... If Congress was party to this stupidity of the White House and approved this decision, Trump had better think of ordering diapers and coffins [for his troops] in the Middle East.
Kayhan Article: "The IRGC Will [Turn] The Persian Gulf Into A Graveyard For Your Army"
Kayhan's front-page article on April 10 stated, "Mr. Trump, take another look at these photos [of U.S. troops surrendering to IRGC troops]! The IRGC will [turn] the Persian Gulf into a graveyard for your army... Trump, who in 2016 described the capture of the desperate U.S. troops by the IRGC, and their kneeling on the deck of the ship, as a 'horrifying spectacle,' apparently fails to realize that he is toying with the lives of [his] country's armed forces. If the events of that day recur... [this time] the U.S. troops will not be treated mercifully by the IRGC."
Kayhan Article: This Step Is Not Military But Has Economic Goals; Exercises Should Be Held In The Strait of Hormuz, Including Simulations Of The Sinking Of American Ships
Kayhan's April 10 editorial stated, "This step by the enemy reflects the growing influence of Iran in the region… In essence, after using various methods which did not succeed, the enemy reached the conclusion that it should use economic leverage to fight the Iranian people and thereby reduce [Iran's] influence. Therefore, we consider this decision, which appears to be a military [decision], as nothing more than a psychological action with economic objectives…
"Iran's response until now has been commendable… The canceling [of Iran's intention to join the] Financial Action Task Force and the designation of the American troops as terrorists are the best, immediate [measures] Iran could have taken in response to Trump's decision… We must make sure to respond to the enemy's psychological actions as severely as possible...
"Holding [military] exercises in the Strait of Hormuz and practicing burying American ships are actions the IRGC may take to demonstrate its seriousness to the enemy and as a response to the American [moves]."
IRGC Statement: "We Will Teach The Enemy Unforgettable And Painful Lessons"
A statement issued by the IRGC in response to the U.S. decision stated: "[This] illegal and unprecedented step by America illustrates the depth of its hatred toward this revolutionary institution [the IRGC]. The black decision by Trump and the idiots that surround the American regime, and the ongoing series of defeats of the White House in the region, have naturally increased the IRGC's resolve to expedite the strengthening of the system and of its defense and attack capabilities, to increase its power in the region, and to maintain the national support [it enjoys]…
"We believe that the support extended to the IRGC by the people, the government institutions [and] the armed forces, [as well as by] clerics, academics, political parties and currents and all of Iran's friends in the world maintaining the achievements of the Islamic Revolution and protecting national security. We promise the Iranian people and the supporters of the revolution that we will protect and defend the revolution and its aspirations, in accordance with Khamenei's instructions, that we will utilize a strategy of meeting aggression with aggression against the enemy and teach it unforgettable and painful lessons."
 Website of the Supreme Leader (Iran), April 9, 2019.
 ISNA (Iran), April 7, 2019.
 ISNA (Iran), April 9, 2019.
 A reference to the 2016 U.S.-Iran naval incident, in which the IRGC seized two U.S. Navy riverine command boats after they entered Iranian territorial waters and held the sailors captive for several hours.
 ISNA (Iran), April 9, 2019.
 Twitter.com/@ir_rezaee, April 8, 2019.
 ISNA (Iran), April 8, 2019.
 Icana.ir, April 8, 2019.
 Irna (Iran), April 8, 2019.
 Kayhan (Iran), April 10, 2019.
 Kayhan (Iran), April 10, 2019.
 Tasnim (Iran), April 10, 2019.