Top Iranian officials recently suggested that if the U.S. labels the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), a powerful branch of the Iranian military, as a terrorist organization, Iran may retaliate by naming the U.S. Army a terrorist organization or the entire U.S. as a "terrorist country," according to Iranian media reports.
Speaking to reporters, Iranian government spokesperson Mohammad Baqar Nobakht said the IRGC is "an official and revolutionary body in the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has its roots in Islamic values," Iran's official outlet IRNA reported. If the U.S. government designates the IRGC, Nobakht said Iran would "treat [the] U.S. as a terrorist country."
Nobakht's remarks came two days after the head of the IRGC, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, suggested that if the designation comes down, Iran would declare the U.S. Army as a terrorist organization and its soldiers as terrorists "like [ISIS]," according to Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency.
The warnings may be too late. Legislation targeting Iran, Russia and North Korea was signed into law last week, and it instructs President Donald Trump to impose new sanctions on the IRGC and other Iranian entities within 90 days under Executive Order 13224. EO 13224 is specifically designed to disrupt terrorist financing and planning. Politico also reported last week the Trump administration plans to designate the IRGC as a terrorist group as part of a more hawkish Iran strategy.
The recent legislation, called the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, accuses the IRGC of being "responsible for implementing Iran’s international program of destabilizing activities, support for acts of international terrorism, and ballistic missile program," and that an elite unit within the IRGC, called the Quds Force, is Iran's "primary arm... for executing its policy of supporting terrorist and insurgent groups." (The U.S. designated the Quds Force specifically as a a terrorist organization in 2007.)