By Danny Eisen
Danny Eisen is a Toronto-based consultant and a cofounder of C-CAT, the Canadian Coalition Against Terror – firstname.lastname@example.org
Legitimacy is a treasured asset for totalitarian regimes. By treating Iran as a legitimate state that can be traded with, bargained with, flattered or cajoled, the international community has emboldened its leaders. Iran has felt free to continue its pursuit of unconventional weapons, while the West continues to engage in ineffective diplomatic strategies. Just this week, in fact, Iran announced it would be enriching uranium to a level of 20% — far above previous enrichment targets.
The Islamic Republic of Iran cannot easily be compared to other nations, or even to other dictatorships. Its prime tenet, enshrined in Iran’s Constitution and the works of the Ayatollah Khomeini, is based on the goal of establishing “an Islamic state worldwide” and “confronting the world with our ideology.” As a constitutional imperative, this is less a mandate for governance or state building than a mission statement for a theologically premised global offensive against the international order. Iran’s theocrats view the Islamic Republic as something more than a mere country — they see it as the seed and vanguard of a revolutionary movement. This is what has driven Iran to become the world’s preeminent state sponsor of terror, a brutal human rights violator, and a global nuclear threat.
The backbone of the regime — which oversees the nation’s nuclear arms program, and which is charged with eradicating domestic dissent — is the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The first step in delegitimizing the Islamic Republic on the world stage, therefore, would be for Western nations to list the IRGC as a banned terrorist entity. The designation would target the vast holdings of the IRGC and the bloated bank accounts of its leaders while minimizing the impact on ordinary Iranians.
This “smart” sanction has the added benefit of being within arm’s reach of policy-makers. Most democratic countries already have a legal framework for listing the IRGC, and utilizing it would not represent a radical departure from existing international norms. The United States, United Nations and European Union have all applied various sanctions against the IRGC and its leaders. Canada should follow suit: There is no legal obstacle to Ottawa listing the IRGC as a terrorist entity under section 83.05 Of the criminal code.
Lawmakers may have concerns about designating a foreign military or state agency as a terrorist entity — a definition usually reserved for non-state actors. But a 65-page report recently submitted to the government of Canada by the Canadian Coalition Against Terror (C-CAT) maintains that this should not be an impediment. Citing a compelling body of expert opinion, the report argues that the IRGC is anything but a normal military body or state entity.
The IRGC is hardly a conventional branch of the military. Defined by the American courts as an “untraditional instrumentality of Iran,” the IRGC’s primary constitutional duty is not to protect Iran from conventional military threats but to “protect the revolution and its ideals.” This amorphous and borderless mandate allows the IRGC to take on any political, social or terrorist role is that is required to ensure the continued export of Khomeini’s Islamic revolution. Given its unconventional mandate and its extraordinary level of operational independence from government hierarchy, the Guards are too autonomous to be a considered a normal state agency. It therefore can and must be held accountable for its own actions like any other terrorist body that commits acts of terrorism on its own initiative.
If there remains any doubt as to the value of sanctioning the IRGC, perhaps the most persuasive endorsement comes from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khameini, who cautioned his associates that “the authority of the Islamic Revolution would collapse” if the Guards Corps ceased to exist. By listing the IRGC as a terrorist organization, the West can help realize Khameini’s worst fears and the greatest hopes of Iran’s dissidents.