US backs off threat to penalize foreigners dealing with IRGC: report

TEHRAN– The United States has reportedly backed off its threat to penalize anyone holding business with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) after blacklisting the Iranian force as a terrorist organization.

The United States has largely carved out exceptions so that foreign governments, firms and NGOs do not automatically face US sanctions for dealing with IRGC, three current and three former US officials told Reuters.

The exemptions, granted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and described by a State Department spokesman in response to questions from Reuters, mean officials from countries such as Iraq who may have dealings with IRGC would not necessarily be denied US visas, Mehr News reported.

The exceptions would allow partner governments like Iraq and Oman as well as humanitarian groups in the region such as the ones in northern Syria and Yemen, to maintain their relations with the IRGC without fear of repercussions.

However, Washington has also created an exception to the carve-out, retaining the right to sanction any individual in a foreign government, company or NGO who themselves provides “material support” to IRGC.

The exemptions, a congressional aide and two former US State Department lawyers said, appeared to ensure that the rest of the Iranian government, as well as officials from partner governments such as Iraq and Oman who may deal with the IRGC, would not automatically be affected by the US designation.

The US officially registered the IRGC as a "foreign terrorist organization" last Monday.

In retaliation, Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) slammed the US government as a "supporter of terrorism," designating American forces in West Asia, known as the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), as a "terrorist organization."

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also warned of "long-term and immediate repercussions" of the US decision, saying the move “could lead to dangerous legal and political repercussions”.

The US blacklisting of the IRGC poses one of the most serious threats to the international order, Zarif said.

American officials have long said they fear the designation could endanger US forces in places such as Syria or Iraq, where they may operate in close proximity to IRGC-allied groups.

M.Wassouf