ICMD, April 8, 2019

The United States on Monday designated Iran´s elite Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization, ramping up already far-reaching efforts to undermine the clerical government in Tehran -- which swiftly retaliated by calling US troops terrorists.

It is the first time that Washington has branded part of a foreign government a terrorist group, meaning that anyone who deals with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps could face prison in the United States.

President Donald Trump called the unit -- which has some 125,000 troops and vast interests across the Iranian economy -- Tehran´s "primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign."

"This action will significantly expand the scope and scale of our maximum pressure on the Iranian regime," Trump said in a statement.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, addressing reporters, said that all businesses and banks around the world "now have a clear duty" to cut off all dealings that involve the Revolutionary Guards.

"The leaders of Iran are racketeers, not revolutionaries," Pompeo said.

The move comes on top of Trump´s decision last year to pull the United States out of an international deal with Iran that was meant to lift crippling economic sanctions in return for the government allowing its nuclear technology to be restricted and kept under close supervision.

The United States has long debated the terrorist designation and has been encouraged to do so by Saudi Arabia and Israel, arch-rivals of Iran which enjoy close relationships with Trump.

The decision comes hours before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces re-election in tight polls. In a statement, he thanked his "dear friend" Trump.

Swift retaliation

Iran swiftly took retaliatory action. The Supreme National Security Council, in a statement carried by the official news agency IRNA, declared the United States to be a state sponsor of terrorism and both called the US Central Command and forces underneath it terrorist groups. -- Intl Agencies