European countries should list Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as terrorists even though this might scupper negotiations on a nuclear arms deal, a senior German politician has said.
Norbert Roettgen is one of several prominent backers of such a move in Europe, including the institute run by Britain’s former prime minister Tony Blair.
The UK and EU have not yet made decisions on the matter, with the EU debate in response to the clampdown on Iranian protests becoming mired in legal wrangling.
Mr Roettgen, a German opposition figure and former foreign affairs committee chair, accused the EU of “waiting to see how the revolution will play out” before it is willing to take a harder line on the Iranian regime.
“It’s not enough to offer condolences every other week after yet another execution,” he wrote in an article for the European Council on Foreign Relations.
“Putting the IRGC on the EU’s terror list is one of the main demands by the people in Iran and the diaspora towards the EU.
“The IRGC is the regime’s centre of power. It controls almost everything in Iran. Putting it on the EU’s terror list would therefore assign responsibility for the terror conducted in Iran and around the globe to the regime and would help block financial flows to a criminal organisation.”
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Mr Roettgen said a terror listing would be seen by Tehran as crossing a red line and therefore make the nuclear talks “close to impossible”.
However, he said it was an illusion to think the 2015 deal had a future “while the current Iranian regime remains in place”.
Negotiations on reviving the deal, after the US pulled out in 2018, have been at an impasse for months and been put on the back burner by Washington since the protests broke out in Iran.
The US listed the IRGC as a terror group in 2019, and the violence against protesters in recent months has prompted calls for the UK and Europe to follow suit.
The German government says this is legally complex because European law requires the IRGC to have been the subject of criminal proceedings.
Mr Roettgen says this is wrong and that Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government is making excuses.
In Britain, there have been reports of a split in the government, with Foreign Office diplomats said to be keen to keep channels of communication open with Tehran.
Mr Blair’s institute said in a recent report that the IRGC was a violent, extremist group that “operates no differently” to banned groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda.
It argued that diplomacy with Iran was still possible, citing the example of continued engagement with Lebanon after Hezbollah, a powerful political force in the country, was blacklisted by Britain in 2019.
“Formally banning or proscribing the IRGC as a terrorist organisation will send a clear message to the clerical regime in Iran that the terrorism and militancy pursued through the Guard will not be tolerated,” the report said.
“The move will also provide the UK government, civil-society groups and technology companies with a clear mandate to more effectively protect against homegrown IRGC and Shia-Islamist extremism and radicalisation through outright bans on activities linked to the Guard in the UK.”