South Asia Center

  • IRGC Designation: A Lost Opportunity to Weaken Hezbollah in Lebanon

    Designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) stirred panic in Lebanon. Hezbollah’s allies in the Lebanese government—such as the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and Amal—worried they too would soon bear the brunt of American sanctions. But US officials reassured a hastily dispatched delegation of the group’s allies last week that despite the more aggressive stance on Iran, they would suffer no consequences for empowering its primary proxy. In doing so, the United States lost an opportunity to weaken Hezbollah through deterring its allies. 

    Because Hezbollah has enmeshed itself in almost every level of Lebanese government and society, countering its growing strength without harming the integrity of the Lebanese state remains a challenge. Differing but insufficient solutions to this dilemma exist. ...

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  • Oman Hedges Its Bets on Tehran and the Trump Administration

    As the Trump administration steps up pressure on Iran, much attention has focused on unprecedented moves such as the April 15 designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.

    However, a more concrete and perhaps effective challenge to the IRGC may come from an unlikely source: Iran’s usually neutral if not friendly neighbor, Oman. 

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  • Will Canada Also Designate the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Entity?

    Following the Trump administration’s decision to label Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist entity, renewed pressure is likely from members of the Conservative party and other Iran hawks in Canada for the government of Justin Trudeau to follow suit.

    Already, Canada, like the US, has designated the Quds Force of the IRGC, an elite branch responsible for extraterritorial operations, as a terrorist organization. However, there has been a persistent effort by Canadian conservatives to label the entirety of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist group.

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  • The Trump Administration’s Terrorist Label Is Strengthening the IRGC

    The recent White House designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist group is the latest extension of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policy toward Iran. Yet this policy, aimed at containing Iran’s regional role and limiting its advanced missile program, has backfired, strengthening the status of the IRGC in Iranian domestic politics and further legitimizing its regional and missile activities in the view of many Iranians.

    The result is the opposite of the Trump administration’s announced goal in withdrawing in May 2018 from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), to reach a “better” nuclear deal. Re-imposed draconian sanctions were meant to challenge the value of the country’s regional policy in domestic politics, weaken Iran’s deterrence strength and push Tehran to accept political and security trends...

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  • Saudi Arabia’s Plan to Lure Iraq From Iran

    A Saudi economic delegation visited Iraq on April 3, seeking to promote the expansion of diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries—and to give Iraq an alternative to growing Iranian ties. 

    This was the second meeting of the Iraqi-Saudi Coordination Council, which held an initial meeting in 2017. The Saudis offered a $1 billion loan for the creation of a sports complex to be known as Sport City. The council also announced the establishment of consular centers for visa services in Baghdad and two other Iraqi cities.

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  • I Know You’re a Terrorist, but What Am I?

    The administration of President Donald Trump finally on April 8—countering the advice of the United States’ own military and intelligence mandarins—named Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization.

    As the White House bragged in its statement, it was the first time that an entire branch of another government was named a foreign terrorist organization. Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), chaired by President Hassan Rouhani, quickly countered by naming US Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees American forces in the greater Middle East, a terrorist...

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  • United States Designates Iran's IRGC a Foreign Terrorist Organization

    The Trump administration on April 8 designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization—the first time a country’s military has received such a status.

    US President Donald Trump said in a statement that the designation “sends a clear message to Tehran that its support for terrorism has serious consequences.” The statement added that the Trump administration “will continue to increase financial pressure and raise the costs on the Iranian regime for its support of terrorist activity until it abandons its malign and outlaw behavior.”

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  • Silicon Valley Preaches Diversity and Inclusion While Excluding Iranians

    Soheila has a monthly routine. At the beginning of each month, she opens the Asan Pardakht app on her iPhone to make gas, phone, and water payments. But on this day, the bill paying application gives her the notification: “Unable to verify app.” Soheila is stuck with unpaid bills. Her only solution is to wait for the next morning to drive to her bank and make individual bank transfers for each of the bills—with a service charge she could have avoided through the app. 

    This extra cost and additional errand to run seems like an implausible inconvenience in 2019, when she seemingly has access to all the devices and internet connections—including circumvention tools—that technology has to offer. Suddenly the expensive iPhone 6s Soheila’s son bought her from abroad two birthdays ago seems to have lost all its shine. The Apple notification and the Telegram messages Soheila receives from friends, who have discovered other inaccessible applications, are making it clear that...

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  • Something Fishy Is Going on Between Iran and China (and Pakistan)

    Two of Beijing’s close allies, Iran and Pakistan, have been increasingly impacted by China’s growing appetite for fish, both for domestic consumption and to supply its processed fish industry. Stricter regulations in Pakistan and an internal political fight in Iran could make it harder for China to expand its fishing industry into their waters.

    Friction between Iranian political factions, chiefly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and President Hassan Rouhani’s government, is on the rise over the growing presence of Chinese fishing vessels in Iranian waters. Growing dissatisfaction by local fishermen over Chinese industrial-style fishing is contributing to the dispute. In Pakistan, meanwhile, new policies and regulations may impact seafood exports to China. 

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  • Which Biblical Iranian Character Are You?

    Those of us who use social media as a means of procrastination are familiar with the “Which… Are You?” tests. These quizzes are obviously not exact. This author was classified as a Hufflepuff when she obviously should have been a Ravenclaw, while Ringo Starr took the “Which Beatle Are You?” test and got John Lennon. 

    It seems that the currently trending quiz is “Which Biblical Iranian Character Is Donald Trump?” In late March, while the Jewish people celebrated Purim, the Feast of Lots—which commemorates events described in the Biblical Book of Esther—US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Israel, and the media feasted with the headlines such as: “Mike Pompeo said it’s possible that Trump is the modern-day Esther,” “Holy ...

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