Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami/Arab News: The dire consequences of Europe’s hesitation on designating Iran’s IRGC/د.محمد السلمي: العواقب الوخيمة لتردد أوروبا في تصنيف الحرس الثوري الإيراني منظمة إرهابية

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د.محمد السلمي/عرب نيوز : العواقب الوخيمة لتردد أوروبا في تصنيف الحرس الثوري الإيراني منظمة إرهابية

The dire consequences of Europe’s hesitation on designating Iran’s IRGC
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami/Arab News/January 30, 2023

On Jan. 19, members of the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted to urge the EU to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. The move came against the backdrop of a string of major Iranian regime crimes and violations, the most recent of which is its savage suppression of protests and its execution of dissidents in the aftermath of the killing of the young Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, by the so-called morality police.

Although this resolution came in the context of Europe’s increased pressure and sanctions on Iran, questions are already being asked about its effectiveness and the implementation mechanism in regard to its enforcement, particularly given the divergent European points of view on how to deal with the threats posed by the IRGC. There is a widespread belief that the resolution was merely a warning shot fired to push the regime to make concessions on a number of files and contentious issues.

The European resolution can be interpreted in the context of a recent shift in the EU’s stance toward Iran. Since November of last year, four EU member states have imposed sanctions on Iranian individuals and entities. These moves took place against the backdrop of three critical developments. Firstly, the stalled nuclear talks and Iran’s intransigence and exploitation of the ongoing global circumstances to gain time to advance its nuclear capabilities toward the nuclear threshold and gain qualitative capabilities that it can leverage against the West. Secondly, Iran’s involvement in the war on Ukraine alongside Russia — a move that has resulted in growing European fears about the IRGC expanding its clout into the heart of Europe, threatening European security and interests. And, lastly, the regime’s repression of protesters, including its execution of dissidents, with the Europeans taking advantage of these domestic Iranian upheavals to increase pressure on the regime.

In addition, the European Parliament resolution coincided with coordinated efforts by the US and UK, as well as a significant shift in the German position, which had always supported adopting a flexible stance toward the Iranian regime.

he Europeans are unable to bear the consequences of the IRGC’s threats and, unfortunately, view it as an unalterable fait accompli. The European parties have thus agreed to reinstate the maximum pressure campaign and build consensus against Iran. It is undeniable that, if the European states were compelled to implement this resolution, the Raisi government would face additional pressures and challenges to its efforts to restore the regime’s legitimacy and resolve internal crises. The clearest proof of this is that, as soon as the resolution was announced, the Iranian currency hit a record low, with a single US dollar reaching 452,000 rials (45,000 tomans) on the free market.

Despite increased pressures and a unified transatlantic position, the Europeans do not appear to be willing to move forward with designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization. It certainly appears that Iran’s efforts in convincing European officials that the resolution must not be binding have been successful. Confirming this, the EU last week approved a new package of sanctions that did not include placing the IRGC on the terror blacklist, with the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, clearly stating that the resolution would not come into force. He said: “It is something that cannot be decided without a court, a court decision first. You cannot say I consider you a terrorist because I don’t like you.”

Thus, there are several points worth highlighting in regard to this issue. First, there is a gap between European awareness of the dangerous role played by the IRGC — a serious threat to European security and maritime navigation, and a source of a potential nuclear fallout that threatens well-established global equilibriums — and the pursuit of effective policies. The Europeans are unable to bear the consequences of the IRGC’s threats and, unfortunately, view it as an unalterable fait accompli.

Second, despite Borrell’s full awareness of the threat posed by the IRGC and the conviction of many European leaders that a decisive stance against the organization is essential, the EU foreign policy chief reassured the IRGC that the European resolution would not come into force. Also, the IRGC is aware that European officials are willing to make deals with it to resolve some contentious issues. This is why the IRGC has treated the resolution as merely a lever. As a result, it will only alter its policies and positions to the extent necessary to avoid exacerbating any differences with the Europeans.

Third, this European behavior proves once again that the issue of human rights is a rhetorical lever used by the West against the Iranian regime from time to time when necessary. Had this issue been significant, the West would have taken measures against the IRGC’s destructive role in the Middle East, which has created the biggest humanitarian crises affecting the region in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. This indifference has encouraged the IRGC to venture farther afield, even participating in destroying Ukraine and maintaining a military footprint enabling it to advance its operations and threats to Western capitals.

In a nutshell, the Europeans have squandered a golden opportunity to forge a rare consensus to address one of the most serious threats to regional and global security. As a result, they should expect the IRGC to continue its hostile policies, such as violating the nuclear threshold, exploiting current global conditions and developing ballistic missiles capable of striking Europe’s heart, as well as moving some of them, along with drones, to Russia.

Furthermore, the IRGC will, without doubt, ramp up its hostile efforts toward European capitals, knowing it need not fear repercussions. The GCC states, particularly Saudi Arabia, have long been raising concerns with the Europeans about the IRGC’s doctrine, tools and goals. The longer it takes for the Europeans to grasp the reality of the IRGC’s lethal threats, the more devastating its operations will be on European soil in the near future.

*Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is president of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami