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The Trump administration’s unprecedented move on Iran

The Trump administration designated Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization Monday, with the goal of rendering the IRGC “radioactive” to other countries and organizations. The unprecedented move represents one more step in the administration's ongoing “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, but what does it mean for future attempts at diplomacy? Nick Schifrin reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We return to the designation by the Trump administration today of Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization.

    As Nick Schifrin reports, it's one more step in the ongoing pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is Iran's most elite and influential military force. It describes itself as the custodian of the Islamic Revolution, and has strong connections with Iran's regime.

    And, today, the U.S. did something it's never done before, designate the IRGC, an entity of another government, a terrorist organization.

  • Mike Pompeo:

    We're doing it because the Iranian regime's use of terrorism as a tool of statecraft makes it fundamentally different from any other government. This historic step will deprive the world's leading state sponsor of terror the financial means to spread misery and death around the world.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The U.S. accuses the IRGC and its Quds Force of supporting Iranian proxies such as Hezbollah that have launched terrorist attacks across the region, overseeing Iran's ballistic missile program, the largest in the region, and supporting groups that at the height of the Iraq War that killed more than 600 U.S. troops.

    But the IRGC is already one of the world's most heavily sanctioned entities. It's intertwined in Iran's economy, and today's designation increases the punishment for anyone doing business with them, says Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook.

  • Brian Hook:

    We are trying to make the IRGC and the Quds Force radioactive for any company around the world that's thinking anybody who is thinking about doing business with them.

    And anybody who is providing material support to the IRGC or the Quds Force faces criminal prosecution and a jail sentence of up to 20 years.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Today, Iran responded in kind. Its supreme National Security Council called the move illegal and designated U.S. Central Command, which oversees all troops in the Middle East, a — quote — "supporter of terrorism."

    CENTCOM deploys tens of thousands of troops, including those currently in Afghanistan and Iraq. And critics of today's declaration say those troops could be at greater risk.

  • Trita Parsi:

    Both the Obama administration, as well as the Bush administration towards the end, were actually trying to find a way to reduce the risk of any confrontation with Iran in Iraq or in Afghanistan. Now we have taken a significant step to make it actually more likely.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Trita Parsi is a Georgetown adjunct professor and was the president of the National Iranian American Council. He argues that, in Iraq since 2011, Iranian troops worked near U.S. troops against a mutual enemy, ISIS. He fears today's declaration reduces chances for cooperation, and increases the chances of conflict in the present and future.

  • Trita Parsi:

    It further entangles the United States in a deep enmity with the Iranians, almost a permanent one now, at this stage. And it makes it so difficult for future administrations, who may want to pursue a different path.

    This decision, as a result, entraps the United States, not just now, but in the future, under different leaderships, in an enmity with Iran that actually doesn't serve U.S. interests.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But the Trump administration has pursued a maximum pressure campaign.

  • Donald Trump:

    This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and sanctioning nearly 1,000 Iranian people and companies. It blames Iranian behavior for the tensions and says, if there's conflict, the fault is Iran's.

  • Brian Hook:

    There's already conflict. This regime, for 40 years, has been in conflict with the United States. So, we are not changing anything in that equation. We are hoping to get a new and better deal to replace the Iran nuclear deal.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But that appeal for Iran to negotiate under U.S. preconditions becomes harder to swallow, says Trita Parsi.

  • Trita Parsi:

    An action like today makes it next to impossible to pursue diplomacy with Iran, at least by the administration that puts this decision into place. Thinking that one can go at it using this path and then making it possible to diplomacy is somewhat ludicrous.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    In Iran, the hard-liners are gaining strength. The U.S. vows even more pressure. And so the two sides face a cycle of escalation and tension.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

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