EU sanctions Iran, at odds over Revolutionary Guards

Nfter the executions of opposition figures in Iran, the European Union new sanctions imposed on Tehran. On Monday, the foreign ministers imposed entry, property and business bans on 18 people and 19 organizations. It was the fourth package of sanctions since protests against the mullahs’ regime began in September last year.

Thomas Gutschker

Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.

Almost a hundred names are now on the sanctions lists, including several commanders of the Revolutionary Guard and the Basij militia that belongs to it. The ministers made no progress in classifying these troops, under the command of the spiritual leader, as a terrorist organization. Germany, the Netherlands and France asked the foreign service to examine options for this.

A court would have to investigate

In November, Foreign Minister Annalena Bärbock campaigned for the inclusion of the Revolutionary Guard on the EU terror list. The European Parliament also voted in favor of this last week. Such a step would be symbolic because the Guard as an organization has been subject to EU sanctions since 2010. Nevertheless, such a step could result in Iran withdrawing completely from the negotiations on the country’s nuclear program, which have been stalled for months.

Before that, the Iranian foreign minister had the EU foreign policy representative Josep Borrell warned, who coordinates the negotiations. Borrell and the foreign service he heads are therefore opposed to the classification of the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. “It’s not a good idea because it prevents progress on other issues,” said a senior official.

Regardless of the political assessment, such an approach is also legally difficult. Baerbock himself called it “more than complex” on Monday. The decisive factor is not “that the regime and the Revolutionary Guards terrorize their own population,” as the minister put it. Rather, a common position of the EU states provides that a competent authority, usually a court, begins investigations into suspected terrorism in a member state and can produce evidence of this. So far this has not been the case. It is now to be examined whether it would also be possible to carry out a listing on the basis of a decision in a third country, for example in the USA.

The foreign ministers also discussed sanctions against the Taliban in Brussels. Most states and the EU have frozen their humanitarian aid since Afghan rulers banned women from working for international organizations. In the next step, funds could be capped. “As an international community, we cannot make ourselves the henchman of the Taliban,” Baerbock said.

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