Parliament of Iran calls entire US military ‘terrorist’

Other than underscoring Iran's defiance, it's unclear what impact the bill its parliament passed could have in the Persian Gulf or beyond

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File photo of the parliament of Iran
File photo of the parliament of Iran

Tehran: The parliament of Iran has passed a bill that brands the entire American military force as “terrorist”. This comes close on the heels of Washington DC announcing that no country, even if otherwise an ally or partner of the US, would any longer get a waiver from the sanction on importing crude oil from Iran.

On Tuesday, 173 out of 215 Iranian MPs voted for the new bill in Majles-e Showra-e-Eslami or Islamic Consultative Assembly, which is the name of the parliament of that country. Just four MPs voted against the motion while the rest abstained. Majlis has 290 seats.

The bill confirms Iran’s earlier label of the US Central Command, also known as CENTCOM, and all its forces as “terrorist”.

The Iranian lawmakers also requested Iran’s intelligence agency provide a list of all CENTCOM commanders within three months so that Iran’s judiciary can prosecute them in absentia as terrorists.

The bill requires final approval by Iran’s constitutional watchdog to become a law.

Last week, the parliament of Iran had approved of a milder version of the bill of Wednesday where they had said that only such American forces that were deployed in West Asia were terrorists.

This is a tit-for-tat game as, much before the first bill in Iranian parliament, the US had termed Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group. This meant that it was now a crime under US jurisdiction to provide the said department of Iran with material support.

The US-Iran bilateral relations had improved some years ago when the leading countries of the world, America included, had signed the 2015 nuclear deal. But the Trump administration re-imposed sanctions on Iran in November 2018. The embargo applies to Iran’s energy sector too.

The latest pressure tactic by the Trump administration is a new American campaign worldwide to isolate Iran. The US government believes Iran misuses the revenue from oil exports to fund destabilising activity in the Middle East and other places.

But Iran is not bowing to US pressure. It has reiterated if it’s prevented from using the crucial waterway in the Persian Gulf through which about a third of all oil traded at sea passes, it will close the Strait of Hormuz. What the US could do if the strait is shut down is a matter of speculation. Experts have not yet arrived at a conclusion about the scenario.

But even if an American retaliation is a possibility it is not very confident of, the US Navy has time and again accused patrol boats of Iran of harassing American warships in the waterway.

As things stand now, Iran’s Foreign Ministry has dismissed Trump’s strongarm tactic, saying the Islamic Republic “basically has not seen and does not see any worth and validity for the waivers”.

Any military and non-military help, including logistics support, to CENTCOM that can be detrimental to the Revolutionary Guard will be considered a terrorist action, the semi-official ISNA news agency said.

The bill also demands the Iranian government take unspecified action against other governments that formally back the US designation.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Israel have all supported the Trump administration’s designation.

Other than underscoring Iran’s defiance, it’s unclear what impact the bill could actually have, either in the Persian Gulf or beyond.

The Revolutionary Guard has forces and wields influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and is in charge of Iranian missiles that have US bases in their range.