Tensions between Iran and the West to Escalate Following European Calls for Proscribing IRGC



The European Parliament recently passed a resolution with an overwhelming vote of 598 to nine that called to designate the IRGC as a terror organization. The Iranian government is facing severe criticism and condemnation from international  and human rights organizations for the crackdown on  Iranian protestors, and the European  Parliament’s recent vote comes amid growing tensions between Iran and the West.

As public opinion in Europe is now strongly against  Iran,  European parliamentarians are under pressure to take a stronger stance against  the repression of the Iranian government. French Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Anne-Claire Legendre said that the French government is working with other European partners to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock underlined that a new round of sanctions would not be enough to prevent the repressive acts of the Iranian government and urged the European Parliament to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also supported the call for listing the IRGC as a terror organization. On the other hand, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom opined that the IRGC can not be designated as a terrorist organization just for violating human rights in Iran unless it has a link to terror acts. As a response to the threats by the Europeans, Iran has warned of retaliatory measures by designating the armies of the European Union (EU) member states as terrorist organizations.

 For some time, the EU has attempted to apply maximum pressure on Iran, with the aim of ensuring  its strategic objectives in the region, including a sustainable nuclear deal. Despite this approach, the EU continued to engage with Tehran, which is proving somewhat difficult now in the current context given Iran’s sale of weapons to Russia amid the Russia-Ukraine war and growing European concerns regarding the Iranian government’s continuing human rights violations.  While countries like Germany, the Netherlands and France have expressed strong support to list the IRGC as a terror organization, several EU officials have explicitly stated their reservations against such a move citing bureaucratic challenges. The diverging opinions within the European Parliament reflect the difficulties in achieving a consensus.   EU foreign policy Chief Josep Borrell has pointed out the legal hurdle in designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization.  As per European law, for the EU to blacklist an organization or entity, it must initially be sentenced by a court inside a member state for terror-related offences. So far there has not been any prosecution or verdict against the IRGC in any of the EU member states. Certain countries like Sweden have been reluctant in supporting the IRGC’s terror designation and have proposed further sanctions instead. The EU, the United States and the UK recently stepped up the sanctions on Iranian officials who have been involved in the violent crackdown on Iranian protestors. However, the effectiveness of sanctions has always been questionable as previous ones have not been successful in deterring Iran’s malicious role in the Middle East and its negative impact on regional security.  Some EU officials have said that any move to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization would further endanger the prospects to revive the nuclear deal. IAEA Chief Rafael Grossi recently warned that Iran has amassed enough material for several nuclear weapons.  Particularly since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Iranian support for Moscow,  there has been a decline in efforts to revive the nuclear deal and amid increased tensions between Iran and the West in recent months, it seems like the nuclear talks have completely stagnated. The US Department of the Treasury also recently imposed sanctions on the IRGC Cooperative Foundation and stated that the decision was taken in coordination with the UK and the EU.

As the EU has now issued a fresh round of sanctions targeting Iranian officials including some IRGC members, tensions could exacerbate further in the coming months. In the current context, growing anti-Iran sentiment in Europe and the continuing repressive approach of the Iranian government will reduce the prospects for any constructive dialogue between Iran and the West, meaning more tensions and confrontation are likely to dominate relations between the two sides in the coming months.

Editorial Team