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Iran rallies behind the Revolutionary Guards as Trump threatens new sanctions

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (Associated Press)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (Associated Press)

Iran’s military establishment defended itself Friday in response to reports that President Trump would seek new economic sanctions against the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Hours before Trump was due to announce his decision to alter the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement, the Revolutionary Guards issued a statement through the Sepah news agency, boasting that it was “the most effective corps in the region.”

Iran’s military public relations — representing ground, air and naval forces — also rallied behind the elite force, saying that any insult to the Revolutionary Guards “is an insult to the entire ruling establishment,” Sepah reported.

“If the IRGC had not taken effective measures, terrorism would have overwhelmed many countries in the region,” the military statement said.

White House officials said Trump would stay in the nuclear deal but would not certify Iran’s compliance, arguing that Tehran was pushing the envelope by testing ballistic missiles and threatening the U.S. and Israel.

Officials said Trump would direct the Treasury Department to blacklist the Revolutionary Guards, the powerful force that leads Iran’s military operations overseas. The White House accuses it of arming Syrian President Bashar Assad, undermining the fight against Islamic State through proxy Shiite Muslim forces in Iraq, supporting Houthi rebels battling a U.S.-backed government in Yemen and launching cyberattacks.

Iran says it has agreed to the toughest international inspections ever put in place and will not abandon the agreement, which granted it relief from international economic sanctions.

Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani, in the religious establishment’s weekly sermon at Tehran University, said Friday that Iranian officials should “stand firmly against this bullying.”

Rahim Zohaby, a 66-year-old importer of consumer goods in Tehran, said Trump was trying to appease his anti-Iranian base.

“President Trump needs controversial moves to redirect American public opinion” from his political struggles, Zohaby said.

Other Iranians said Trump’s actions fall short of his pledge to “tear up” the nuclear deal.

“The madman has backed down in a cowardly way from his hollering and harsh words," said Ali Jafari, a 42-year-old shopkeeper. “I think we must keep up our commitment to the nuclear deal, and at the same time continue our missile projects and strengthening our military power, just in case.”

Rahim Haghverdi, a grocery shop owner, said Iran should stick with the nuclear deal no matter what the U.S. does.

“We need stability in the economy and domestic and foreign investment,” said Haghverdi, 27. “I don’t care about blacklisting the IRGC. We want stability and economic growth.”

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