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Reckless Iran bill endangers our national security

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Earlier this year, the Trump administration was considering designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization. Defense officials cautioned that this could provoke a backlash against U.S. troops and undermine the war against ISIS, so the administration pulled back. It was right to do so.
Unfortunately, Congress is now considering a bill that would require the administration to so designate the IRGC. The bill uses a different legal authority, but the effect would be the same. The political satisfaction of designating the IRGC as a terrorist group is not worth the increased risk to our men and women in uniform and the likely setback to their operations in Iraq and Syria.
{mosads}The Revolutionary Guard is an elite branch of Iran’s armed forces. Founded after the Iranian revolution in 1979, it is the guardian of the revolution and the country’s Islamic character. The IRGC and the Iranian regime more broadly do engage in activities inimical to U.S. national interests; but that does not preclude cooperating with them on important matters when it is mutually beneficial. In fact, we share a common enemy in the Islamic State. The IRGC plays an important role in the war against ISIS, arming Iraq’s Shia militias in Iraq and likely directing their military operations. Iran also has conducted airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq.
Iranian support has contributed to some key victories against ISIS. In August 2014, Iran backed Iraqi forces to save Amerli, a cluster of farming villages in Northern Iraq whose Shiite residents faced possible slaughter by ISIS. In November 2014, the IRGC assisted in liberating the central city of Baiji. In 2015, it supported Iraqi forces in retaking Tikrit. The IRGC’s intervention saved the Kurdish capital Erbil from falling to ISIS in 2016, and it continues to provide valuable support in the effort to retake Mosul. 
The bill Congress is considering directs the president to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group under Executive Order 13224, issued by President Bush in 2001 to disrupt financial support networks of terrorists. The terrorist designation does not impose new sanctions. It is simply a label, which sends a signal but does not materially impact the IRCG’s ability to provide support to terrorist groups. It won’t affect the IRGC in any significant way, but could provoke it to retaliate against U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.  
Despite the nuclear agreement, which is succeeding in blocking Iran’s paths to the bomb, Iran does continue to pose a threat to the national security interests of the United States. We should take steps to push back against Iran’s support for terrorism, its human rights violations and ballistic missile development. This should be done as part of a comprehensive strategy in cooperation with our allies.
Congress should avoid the temptation to score political points by appearing tough on Iran when our national security interests would be adversely affected and the safety of our troops endangered.
Gard, a 31-year veteran of the United States Army, is a member of the Advisory Board of the Federation of American Scientists and a former president of National Defense University.

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.


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