Sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards in Iran: discussions about the EU terror list

According to the federal government, the EU states are planning further sanctions against Iran on Monday – including against members of the Revolutionary Guard.

Foreign Minister Baerbock

“Listing the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization is politically important,” says Baerbock Photo: Carsten Koall/dpa

BERLIN taz/dpa | The EU’s foreign service sees legal hurdles for classifying the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization at EU level alone. For example, a national court decision or prohibition order is necessary for the inclusion of an organization on the EU terror list, said a spokeswoman on Thursday evening at the request of the German Press Agency. “This means that the EU level alone cannot act without such a national decision,” said the spokeswoman.

The classification of the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization has been the subject of negotiations and arguments for months. On Wednesday it had European Parliament clarified its position on the Revolutionary Guards: “In view of their terrorist activities, the suppression of demonstrators and the delivery of drones to Russia”, the EU should put the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and auxiliary troops on the EU terror list, demanded a majority of MEPs.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry warned the EU against this step. This would have “negative consequences”, the EU would harm itself. The opinion of the EU parliamentarians was “inappropriate”.

The EU states want to decide on new sanctions against Iran on Monday. It would be the EU’s fourth package of sanctions against Iran since the current uprising against the Islamist regime began in September. According to an advance agreement, they will meet around three dozen people and organizations involved in the brutal crackdown on nationwide protests following the death of 22-year-old Jina Mahsa Amini. Exactly who will be sanctioned is still a secret. However, the Revolutionary Guards will initially not be put on the EU terror list on Monday.

Left criticizes unclear communication

The Left Party in Germany, however, is again missing a clear stance from the Foreign Ministry regarding the terrorist classification of the Revolutionary Guards. In response to a question from Left-wing MP Martina Renner in the Bundestag, Minister of State for Europe Anna Lührmann said in a written reply on Wednesday: With a view to the Foreign Affairs Council next Monday, “further listings are already being worked on, including individual listings by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards .” However, the plan to include the Guards as a complete organization on the EU terror list was not mentioned.

Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) had repeatedly reiterated that she had been campaigning for this for months. Only ten days ago, however, the CDU foreign politician Norbert Röttgen questioned the will of the Foreign Ministry in this regard. Foreign Minister Baerbock then made a clear statement: “Listing the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization is politically important and makes sense,” explained Baerbock on Twitter. Before listing, however, legal hurdles would have to be cleared.

Left-wing politician Renner is now criticizing a renewed indifferent attitude and communication: “The fact that the Foreign Minister is publicly speaking of an overall listing, while the Federal Foreign Office is now only talking about individual listings, shows that further action in this regard is left open,” Renner told the taz.

“In view of the five death sentences that have been carried out, time is running out to expand measures against the Iranian regime and to exhaust all possibilities,” Renner continued. In her question in the Bundestag, she also pointed out that Germany is still Iran’s most important trading partner in the EU, despite executions and human rights violations. “The Revolutionary Guards are a strong economic player in Iran. The long overdue listing as a terrorist organization, and the possible sanctions and confiscation of assets that would result, would hit them hard.” Renner also called for embassy employees who were obviously acting for the Iranian secret service to be expelled.

Foreign Ministry affirms clear course

When asked by the taz, the Foreign Ministry referred to the clear statement by Foreign Minister Baerbock that he wanted to list the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization at EU level. “We have asked the EU to examine the legal requirements for this. At the same time, the Federal Government is continuing to work on holding accountable those responsible for the violent suppression of the protests and the repression in Iran,” said a spokesman for the Federal Foreign Office.

In recent months, dozens of leaders and regional units of the Revolutionary Guards have been individually listed under the human rights sanctions regime against Iran. The spokesman also referred to the new sanctions plans of the EU Foreign Council on Monday. Minister of State Führmann also recalled that the Federal Republic of Germany initiated the special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in November, at which a review of human rights violations in Iran was mandated.

The Federal Foreign Office did not give any explanation as to why the clear position on the terrorist listing was not also reflected in the answer of the Minister of State in the Bundestag.

In addition to the regular reference to legal hurdles, there are political reservations from individual EU states. Some believe in the continuation of the nuclear agreement that listing the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist would stand in the way. Likewise, the economic power of the Revolutionary Guards seems too great for some to want to cut ties completely.

Inclusion on the terror list would have far-reaching consequences

According to experts, the classification of the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization would have far-reaching significance beyond individual sanctions. Julia Grauvogel, an expert on sanctions and researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Global and Regional Studies in Hamburg, explained to the taz: “The Revolutionary Guards are involved in numerous companies. These companies would then be affected by the corresponding sanctions for terrorist organizations, i.e. the freezing of funds and other assets, so that economic relationships would no longer be possible.

For Grauvogel, the classification would have an important symbolic meaning, but it would also have massive economic effects. “This is also the reason why the Iranian regime is reacting so sensitively to the announcement.”

the Political science Ali Fathollah-Nejad refers to estimates in this regard, according to which the Revolutionary Guards are linked to every second company in Iran. They dominate important industrial sectors such as construction, transport, telecommunications and energy. the Islamic scholar Wilfried Buchta estimated 2020that the Revolutionary Guards owned well over 1,200 companies and businesses in Iran and abroad, controlling at least 40 percent of the entire Iranian economy.

The Revolutionary Guard reports directly to the revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei and was established after the Islamist revolution in 1979 as a counterweight to the regular army. The EU and the German Foreign Ministry accuse the Revolutionary Guards of serious human rights violations.

The so-called EU terror list was introduced in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001 and, according to the European Council, currently includes 21 organizations and 13 individuals associated with terrorist acts. The list is checked at least twice a year, it is possible to appeal against it.

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