A top Iranian general warned that the US will pay a high price if it imposes sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of the powerful IRGC military force, told senior commanders that the US should close all bases within 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) of Iran before it considers imposing “sanctions on defense and the Revolutionary Guard.”
“Iran’s missile power is advancing at a great speed in air, land and sea and this is a cornerstone of our policy,” he said in comments carried Wednesday on the force’s Sepahnews website.
Iran’s Gulf Arab neighbors to the west and Afghanistan to the east host several major US military bases.
Jafari warned US “miscalculation” could have a “high cost.”
“The domain of the Islamic revolution’s influence has expanded so much” that Iran is active close to American interests in many parts of the world, he warned.
Such influence, he added, is partly the result of Iran’s military strength and “the roar of the missiles.”
He said that planned US sanctions were an attempt to harm Iran’s national interests, and said that his country’s citizens were prepared and ready to withstand US economic pressure.
Jafari also said that Iran’s continued missile development was not going to end. “Iran’s missile power is non-negotiable and we will defend it,” he said.
The general’s comments echoed those of Iran’s top army chief who on Monday threatened attacks on US military bases in the Middle East in the event that Washington imposes sanctions on the regime.
Iran’s chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, said that designating the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization would be a huge miscalculation, and threatened that doing so could destabilize the entire region, Iranian media reported.
“Drawing an analogy between the IRGC and terrorist groups and imposing the same sanctions on the IRGC would be a big risk to the US and its bases and forces stationed in the region,” Bagheri told a group of military commanders in Mashhad.
Bagheri also said the US should be wary of imposing new sanctions on the country to stop its missile program.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran’s missile power is defensive and is never negotiable at any level,” he said.
On Tuesday the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on seven groups and five people that aided Iran’s military or the elite Guard. The sanctions also targeted what the US says is a transnational criminal group based in Iran and three people associated with it, which the Treasury Department says stole software from the US and other Western countries.
The sanctions prompted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to warn that Tehran would “respond appropriately.”
“We will not forgive violations by the Americans and we will stand against them,” he said.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the sanctions show that the Trump administration will continue to act “aggressively” against Iran’s “provocative and destabilizing behavior.”
“This Administration will continue to aggressively target Iran’s malign activity, including their ongoing state support of terrorism, ballistic missile program, and human rights abuses,” Mnuchin said in a statement.
“These sanctions target procurement of advanced military hardware, such as fast attack boats and unmanned aerial vehicles, and send a strong signal that the United States cannot and will not tolerate Iran’s provocative and destabilizing behavior. We will continue to target the IRGC and pressure Iran to cease its ballistic missile program and malign activities in the region.”
The sanctions freeze any assets the targets may have in the US and prevent Americans from doing business with them.
Tuesday’s sanctions came after the US Senate in June overwhelmingly passed legislation to strengthen sanctions against Iran for its ballistic missile testing and other non-nuclear provocations.
Passed by a vote of 98-2, the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017 is supposed to impose new mandatory sanctions against persons and entities involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Both Democrats and Republicans in Washington have insisted on responding to Iran’s provocative ballistic missile tests for months, but reportedly waited until after the recent Iran election to vote on this legislation.
The bill still has to go to the US House of Representatives. If it passes there, it will go to the president’s desk.