The United States is weighing whether to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group, as part of an effort to increase the pressure on Tehran, CNN reported Monday night.
Senior current and former officials familiar with the matter say the White House has been debating the issue for months but has yet to reach a consensus. According to the officials, the debate has senior cabinet officials squaring off on both sides.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in favor of the designation, sources familiar with his thinking say, while Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats has cautioned the administration that designating the IRGC could pose dangers to US forces.
According to CNN, while some warn a designation could pose risks to US personnel and installations overseas, it would allow the White House to freeze IRGC assets, impose travel bans and levy criminal penalties on top of pre-existing economic sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump.
“The United States is trying to change malign behavior of the Iranians and deter their aggression,” said Chris Costa, the executive director of the Spy Museum and a recently retired special adviser to Trump on counterterrorism. For that goal, he said, “the special designation is a very important tool.”
Meanwhile, an Iranian diplomat has been arrested along with two people suspected of plotting a bomb attack on a meeting of an exiled Iranian opposition group in France attended by Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Belgian authorities said on Monday.
Three other arrests were made in France but two of them were later released.
Several former European and Arab ministers also attended the meeting of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) – an umbrella bloc of opposition groups in exile that seek an end to Shiite Muslim clerical rule in Iran.
Two suspects in Belgium were intercepted by Belgian police on Saturday, with 500 grams of TATP, a home-made explosive produced from easily available chemicals, as well as a detonation device found in their car, a joint statement by the Belgian prosecutor and the intelligence services said.
The 38-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman, identified only as Amir S. and Nasimeh N., were charged with attempted terrorist murder and preparation of a terrorist act, it said.
The diplomat at the Iranian embassy in the Austrian capital Vienna was arrested in Germany, the Belgian statement said. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is due to visit Austria on Wednesday.
Three people of Iranian origin were arrested in France to assess their link to the Brussels’ suspects, a French judicial source said. Two were released due to a lack of evidence against them while the third was held for questioning, the source said.
“How convenient: Just as we embark on a presidential visit to Europe, an alleged Iranian operation and its ‘plotters’ arrested,” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted.
“Iran unequivocally condemns all violence & terror anywhere, and is ready to work with all concerned to uncover what is a sinister false flag ploy.”
The Belgian statement gave no further details about diplomat, other than saying they were suspected of having been in contact with the Belgian pair arrested.
It said one of those arrested in France, Merhad. A, was a suspected accomplice of the pair in Brussels.
The NCRI meeting, which attracted a crowd of thousands, took place on Saturday in Villepinte, just outside Paris, a three-hour drive from Brussels.
“A plot by the religious dictatorship ruling Iran to carry out a terrorist attack against the grand gathering of the Iranian Resistance in Villepinte was foiled,” Shahin Gobadi spokesman for NCRI said in a statement.
The People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran, is the main component of NCRI. The group, also known by its Persian name Mujahideen-e-Khalq, was once listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union but is no longer.
Tehran has long called for a crackdown on the NCRI in Paris, Riyadh, and Washington. The group is regularly criticized in state media.
Following the arrests, Belgian authorities also conducted five raids in different parts of the country but did not elaborate on whether anything was found.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel on Twitter thanked police and intelligence officers for their work.
Source » ynetnews