What Will IRGC Designation Actually Do?

April 8, 2019


Matthew Levitt, Patrick Clawson, and Michael Eisenstadt


The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

On April 8, President Donald Trump announced the addition of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list. The designation, effective April 15, represents the latest escalation of the administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign targeting Iran’s malign activities, but it is an action heavy on messaging with few practical advantages. The IRGC was already designated under U.S. Treasury counter-proliferation authorities (EO 13382) in 2007, and then again for human rights abuses—along with the Basij Resistance Force and the Law Enforcement Forces—under EO 13553 in 2011. As the State Department’s fact sheet about the FTO designation notes, the IRGC’s Qods Force was designated under counterterrorism authorities (EO 13224) as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2007, and the IRGC itself was designated under the EO 13224 counterterrorism authority in 2017 as well. 

In other words, the U.S. Treasury Department already formally designated the IRGC as a terrorist group, and today’s action just does so again under the State Department’s own list under another authority—Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The only new authorities a State Department FTO designation adds beyond those already on the books are:

(1) The FTO designation imposes immigration restrictions on members of the organization simply by virtue of their membership, so anyone ever affiliated with the IRGC can now be excluded from entering the United States, and

(2) The FTO designation triggers a criminal prohibition on knowingly providing material support or resources to the designated organization.


Read the full analysis at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.