Iran is currently overwhelmed with fear and anxiety after the Trump administration had imposed new sanctions targeting its ballistic missile program and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Tehran's concerns are exacerbating as this move may pave the way for scraping the nuclear deal and naming the elite military arm a terrorist organization, which will have many negative repercussions on the Mullah regime and the world.
The sanctions designate 18 entities and individuals supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program, its military and its IRGC.
War of words between Tehran, Washington
As a result of imposing the new sanctions, a war of words has developed between Washington and Tehran.
"If the United States wants to pursue sanctions against Iran's defenses and the Guards, then it has to move its regional bases to a distance of about 1,000 km around Iran," Tasnim and other news agencies quoted IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari as saying.
It has to "be aware that it would pay a high price for any miscalculations," he noted.
He added that "Iran's missile capability in the air, sea and land is growing rapidly, and this is an absolute principle for us".
However, the Pentagon said it was not planning on moving its bases.
"We have no intention of adjusting our posture as a result of these statements," Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said earlier on Wednesday the new sanctions contravened the nuclear accord with world powers and vowed Tehran would "resist" them.
Rouhani noted that Iran would have an "appropriate response" to the sanctions, but he did not elaborate.
Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, also contributed to this war.
He said that “counting the IRGC among terrorist groups and similarly sanctioning them is a big risk for America and its bases and troops in the region,”
“Tehran's missile strength is for defense and is never negotiable at any level,” he further stated.
“Iran has always stood up against arrogant powers, especially America, and day by day becomes more resistant," he noted.
"Therefore, the next sanctions are another opportunity for growth and self-sufficiency for domestic capacities,” he added.
Implicit messages in Jafari's statements
Jafari's threats send implicit messages at many levels, according to analysts.
First, IRGC commander wanted to arouse the enthusiasm of the Iranian people as discontent is simmering over Supreme Iranian Leader Ali Khamenie's policies and widespread poverty, unemployment and corruption , they said.
They added that by claiming the country has advanced military capabilities that can challenge the US and its sanctions he attempts to distract their attention from the country's woes.
Second, Jafari used his statement as an underlying message to IRGC personnel that confirms he is the most powerful commander within the elite military arm's ranks, the observers further stated.
Third, the statements paved the way for increasing IRGC's budget. It also has given Iran's parliament a pretext to discuss measures, including increased funding for the missile program, as retaliation for the new US sanctions.
Negative repercussions of naming IRGC terrorist organization
In 2007, the IRGC’s Quds Force was designated terror group. But Iran experts have told the Congress that the Quds Force is an inseparable part of the IRGC, which should be designated entirety. Iran's proponents, on the other hand, argue that blacklisting the IRGC would risk a violent backlash.
In February, Reuters reported that Trump’s administration is considering a proposal that could lead to potentially designating Iran’s IRGC as a terrorist organization.
This move could have potentially destabilizing effects, including further inflaming regional conflicts in which the United States and regional arch-rivals blame Iran for interference, observers said.
They noted that it would also likely complicate the US fight against ISIS in Iraq, where Shi’ite militias backed by Iran and advised by IRGC fighters are battling the terrorist group.
It may have much broader implications, including for the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated between Iran and the United States and other major world powers, they further stated.
A senior US official who has been involved in what he called a broad review of Iran policy said that sanctioning the IRGC could backfire. It could strengthen the hardliners and undercut more moderate leaders such as Rouhani, he noted.
He stated that this move may encourage Iranian-backed forces to sponsor actions against US-backed or even American forces battling ISIS in Iraq.
"Tehran may not act quickly or in the open, but there is a danger of an escalating conflict," he concluded.