Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday defended the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as protectors of Iran a day after the United States labeled the group as a foreign terrorist organization, Reuters writes.
President Donald Trump designated Iran’s Guards a foreign terrorist organization on Monday – an unprecedented step that will raise tensions in the Middle East.
“The Guards have sacrificed their lives to protect our people, our (1979 Islamic) revolution … But today America that holds a grudge against the Guards, blacklists the Guards,” Rouhani said in a speech.
Tehran took retaliatory action by naming the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) as a terrorist organization and the U.S. government as a sponsor of terror, and Iranian officials warned the move will endanger U.S. interests in the region, where Iran is involved in proxy wars from Syria to Lebanon.
“This mistake will unite Iranians and the Guards will grow more popular in Iran and in the region … America has used terrorists as a tool in the region while the Guards have fought against them from Iraq to Syria,” Rouhani said.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blasted the U.S. move on Twitter, saying it was timed to support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Tuesday’s parliamentary election in the Jewish state, Arab News reported.
“A(nother) misguided election-eve gift to Netanyahu. A(nother) dangerous US misadventure in the region,” he wrote.
Iranian Revolutionary Guards commanders have repeatedly said that U.S. bases in the Middle East and U.S. aircraft carriers in the Gulf are within range of Iranian missiles, Reuters adds.
Tehran has also threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if the United States tries to strangle Tehran’s economy by halting its oil exports.
Meanwhile, Iran’s arch rival Saudi Arabia welcomed the U.S. decision on Tuesday. The Sunni Muslim kingdom and Shi’ite Iran have been fighting proxy wars for years, backing opposing sides in conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and Riyadh accuses Tehran of interfering in its and other Middle Eastern countries’ internal affairs.
“The U.S. decision translates the Kingdom’s repeated demands to the international community of the necessity of confronting terrorism supported by Iran,” Saudi state news agency SPA said, citing a foreign ministry source.