By Jason Lemon
April 11, 2019
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has hit back at the United States following the Trump administration’s announced decision to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a “terrorist group.”
Turning President Donald Trump’s accusation against the elite branch of the Iranian military on its head, Rouhani said in a Tuesday address that the U.S. is the “leader of global terrorism.”
“You use terrorist groups against the peoples of the region and yet claim to have been fighting terrorism?” Rouhani asked, according to Iran’s Fars News Agency. “You are at the top of terrorism in the entire world.”
He warned, “You know that we have developed missiles since last year until this year that are beyond your imagination,” which suggests that Iran could use its missiles to target U.S. bases or regional American allies in retaliation. Tehran has previously claimed to have missiles with a range of more than 1,200 miles.
On Tuesday, Iranian lawmakers met for a parliament session, wearing paramilitary uniforms and chanting “Death to America,” according to the Associated Press. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised the IRGC, bashing the U.S. and saying Washington’s “evil designs would not harm” the elite force.
The Iranian president also pointed to the downing of Iran Air Flight 655, which was shot out of the sky by the U.S. in 1988. All 290 civilians on the plane were killed, including 66 children. At the time, Washington claimed the military had thought the Airbus passenger plane was a fighter jet.
George H.W. Bush, who was vice president and would win the presidential election a few months later, responded to the incident by saying: “I’ll never apologize for the United States of America, ever. I don’t care what the facts are.”
Citing the incident, Rouhani asked how such an attack on innocent Iranians was not “terrorism.”
“After shooting down our airliner, you claimed that you mistook it for an F-14 fighter, which is a childish claim. With this terrorist act, you wanted to say that you do not consider any red lines and kill women and children,” he said. “Your message was to support terrorism in the region.”
The Trump administration confirmed on Monday that the U.S. would officially designate the IRGC as a “terrorist group.” With the announcement, the administration cited the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that left 19 American airmen dead, as well as other foiled plots targeting the U.S. and its allies.
Trump said the new designation “makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC…. If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.”
Founded in 1979 following the Iranian Revolution, which overthrew the U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the IRGC has grown in prominence, with analysts suggesting it now dominates the Iranian economy. The military force has also been involved in regional conflicts, training and providing support to troops the Iranian regime supports. These efforts are usually at odds with U.S. interests in the region.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing a close election Tuesday, publicly took credit for Trump’s decision with a Monday tweet. “Thank you for answering another one of my important requests, which serves the interests of our country and the countries of the region,” he wrote.
In his Tuesday remarks, Rouhani argued that the U.S. was concerned more about the interests of Israel instead of those of the world. Washington “has made a big mistake by putting IRGC on its terror list and has sacrificed the interests of American people and others across the world for the interests of a host of Zionists,” he claimed.