Baku, Azerbaijan, April 12
By Azer Ahmadbayli – Trend:
The US decision to put Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) into the list of terrorist organizations may increase possibility of armed clashes in the region.
The Trump administration on Monday labeled IRGC as a “terrorist group”. Later in the day, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council in turn took a reciprocal action designating US forces in West Asia, known as CENTCOM, as a terrorist organization.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi commenting the US decision said that from now on, the American forces stationed in the region are not soldiers any longer and will be regarded as terrorists.
So far, in Syria, Iraq or other place, where the US and Iranian or pro-Iranian forces are simultaneously present, there have been no cases of direct contact with a threat to use force. Now this threat is becoming real.
The risks for the US military have much increased, especially in Iraq and the Persian Gulf.
Americans need to ensure enhanced vigilance and expect sudden surprises. In Iraq, for example, the aggressive behavior of Hashd al-Shaabi militants against the American G.I.-s can trigger an armed clash. Hashd al-Shaabi is a paramilitary group of Iraq’s origin, and the Americans, knowing about their close ties with IRGC, however, will fail to put direct responsibility upon Iran for possible consequences.
Moreover, the US possible retaliatory actions can be a good opportunity to turn many Iraqis against the presence of American troops in this country followed by the mass protests with blocking the US bases and demanding their immediate withdrawal.
One of the most dangerous courses of events may occur in the Persian Gulf, as, different from other regions, there is a possibility of a direct contact between US warships and IRGC speedboats. From now on, Americans should expect growing frequency of aggressive actions with unpredictable consequences.
Also, the IRGC’s war-like behavior and the US possible response might threaten the safe supply of hydrocarbons flowing from the Gulf to global markets.
The thing is that the US decision, mostly, suggests measures of purely sanction character, meaning tracking and disruption of financial and intelligence activities of IRGC, doing business with IRGC affiliated companies, its activeness in Iran’s shipping industry etc., that is, without direct physical contact, while Iran has no other option but to interpret its reciprocal decision literally.
In January 2016 two US Navy combat boats with ten servicemen onboard were captured by IRGC marine forces after they entered Iranian territorial waters. Back then, the Iranian side admitted the Americans crossed the border by mistake. Iranians treated them as “detainees” providing them with safe conditions and hot meal and releasing them the day after.
If similar incident occurs now, it’s most likely that US military will be called terrorists and accordingly sentenced to heavy term of imprisonment, provoking, in turn, harsh response of Washington leading to an armed conflict.