How Europe Can Help Iranian Protesters, Right Now — Blacklist The Revolutionary Guards
The European Union has been hesitant to classify Iran's national security force as a terrorist organization because of fears of a reprisal.
Three years after a U.S. airstrike on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards general Qasem Soleimani, the European Union is considering whether or not to list the Revolutionary Guards, the force responsible for Iran's national security, as international terrorists. Soleimani and several collaborators were killed in a drone strike outside Baghdad, ordered by the administration of President Donald J. Trump.
The Trump administration asked the Europeans to list the Guards as terrorists as it had done, but was met by the opposition of the then-German chancellor, Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Britain's former Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Now, three years on, the Europeans have reached the same point as the Trump administration.
On Jan. 2, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported on the United Kingdom's intention to list the Guards as terrorists within weeks, in reaction to the Islamic Republic's suspected attempts in past months to kill or kidnap individuals on UK soil. Germany has in turn restricted ties with the Iranian regime and recently advised dual nationals or Iranian residents in Germany not to travel back to Iran, lest they be impeded from leaving.
Elements in the Iranian regime have singled out Germany and the United States as two states fomenting months of anti-regime protests, which the Islamic Republic insists are a plot rather than indicating mass discontent against it.
The late Soleimani's successor as head of the Revolutionary guards Quds Force — Iran's regional task force — Ismail Qaani, warned in late November that anyone who had "done so much as a day's work in the media against the Islamic Republic have had their names registered, and their turn will come." One day "you'll wake up," he said, and "see you have nothing left."
The conservative Tehran paper Kayhan (no link with Kayhan-London) also wrote in an editorial published on Jan. 2 that Qaani had "filled Soleimani's place for the resistance front," which it said had not declined but grown "exponentially." The daily was referring to proxy militias, regional allies and collaborators, said to constitute a "front of resistance" to Western powers and Israel. It boasted that in the past three years, Qaani was behind the deaths of 25 Israelis and no less than 420 injuries caused in Israel just in 2022. If nothing else, citing such figures incriminates the Revolutionary guards and proves terrorist activities!
The situation has changed enough after almost four months of protests in Iran to change European minds.
Iranian politicians have meanwhile repeatedly warned the West against blacklisting the Guards. The corps' former chief, Muhammad'ali Ja'fari, said in 2017 that U.S. bases could become targets of Iranian projectiles if the Guards were classified as terrorists.
Other voices abroad, such as the Atlantic Council or the NIAC (the National Iranian American Council), an NGO many Iranians suspect has acted as a regime lobbyist in the United States, have been working to dampen enthusiasm for the idea. For years, such "moderating influences" have exaggerated the regime's military power, and warned that blacklisting the Guards could spark a war in the Middle East.
A member of the Revolutionary Guard stands in front of Shahab-3 missile in Tehran
Longer the wait, higher the cost
Just a year ago, EU officials like its foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, his deputy Enrique Mora and former EU negotiators like Javier Solana, were pressuring the Biden administration to remove the Guards from the U.S. terror list, to help revive the 2015 nuclear pact, which the United States ditched, also under the Trump administration. The West hopes the pact will keep strict checks on Iran's unnerving nuclear program. Inside the United States, certain senators in the Democrats, and the NIAC were pushing for the Guards' delisting.
But the situation has changed enough after almost four months of protests in Iran to change the minds of the European powers. Even the NIAC has changed tack, and seems to be backing regime change in Iran. It wrote on its Twitter account that it backed Iranians when they wanted reforms, and now backs them in their demands to end the Islamic regime. The volte-face of lobbyists must be a sign of the gravity of the regime's situation, suggesting they have despaired of its chances of reasserting itself.
Three years ago, observers fearfully warned that striking at the Revolutionary Guards could cause war in the Middle East. Today, Europeans must not be cowed by similar threats and understand that listing the Guards as terrorists will aid the people's protests against the regime.
The more they hesitate and the longer they wait, the higher the cost being imposed on a people fighting to live in freedom.
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