Iranian President Hassan Rouhani fired back at the United States Tuesday, saying its decision to give Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a “terrorist” designation was a “mistake.”
The Trump administration on Monday declared the IRGC a terrorist organization, the first time any foreign military branch has received such a blacklist. Tehran responded Tuesday by naming United States Central Command, or CENTCOM, a terrorist organization and the U.S. government as a sponsor of terror.
Rouhani accused the U.S. administration of using terrorism as a tool in the Mideast region as the IRGC actively fights militants.
“This mistake will unite Iranians and the IRGC will grow more popular in Iran and the region,” the Iranian leader said. “Who are you to label revolutionary institutions as terrorists? You want to use terrorist groups as tools against the nations of the region. You are the leader of world terrorism.”
Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also renounced the U.S. move.
“[The IRGC] is on the front line of confronting enemies of our revolution and has always defended the country,” he said in a speech to members of the guard. “America has failed to block our advancements.”
The leaders made their remarks on Iran’s Nuclear Day Tuesday, and Rouhani said the United States is taking a great risk with its decision to call the IRGC “terrorist.”
“If you pressure us, we will mass produce [nuclear] advanced centrifuges,” he said.
Rouhani touted Iranian achievements in nuclear technology and the installation of advanced centrifuges at a uranium enrichment facility in Natanz and Fordo. Iranian lawmakers chanted, “death to America” on Tuesday as they held an open session of parliament.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo contended the IRGC works to destabilize the Middle East by supporting militant organizations that are already on the U.S. blacklist, like Hamas and the Islamic State. He said the IRGC “masquerades” as a legitimate military branch as it carries out terror campaigns worldwide.
Not everyone in the Trump administration supports the move — some national security officials said it could incite violence against U.S. troops in the Middle East. Tehran made similar threats Monday. State Department officials, however, downplayed the potential risks and Trump said the designation expands the scale of pressure on the Iranian regime.