The United States did. The EU could. Why Canada won’t put Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on its terrorist list
As Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) warns against cracking down on street protests, the European Union and Germany debate whether they should join countries like the United States in officially designating the militia as a terrorist organization.
The protests, sparked by the Death of Mahsa Aminiwho died Sept. 16 after being detained for allegedly violating the country’s strict Islamic dress code for women, prompted Canada to take action against Iran and condemn the IRGC.
The federal government has branded the IRGC a terrorist organization, described its leaders as terrorists and announced measures to make some members of the group inadmissible to Canada. Additionally, the government continues to list a branch of the IRGC, its Al-Quds Expeditionary Force, as a terrorist entity.
Yet despite calls from the federal Conservative Party, activists and the Association of Families of Victims of Flight PS752, the government has refused to designate the entire militia as a terrorist entity under the Criminal Code of Canada.
“It’s a valid question what the reluctance is. I don’t know what’s going on in the mind of the foreign minister, the public safety minister or the prime minister,” said Phil Gurski, a former terrorism specialist at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. . “I mean, if anything, it’s really a no-brainer.”
“The IRGC definitely meets these criteria.”
CBC News explains the actions taken by the government, its reasons given for not listing the IRGC as a terrorist entity and other potential motivations for its reluctance.
What is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps?
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was formed following the 1979 Iranian revolution, created to protect the new government. Since then, according to the Council on Foreign Relations website, which has become one of the most powerful paramilitary organizations in the Middle East. It runs its own intelligence services and reports directly to Iran’s supreme leader.
It is a branch of Iran’s armed forces, but it operates independently from the regular army and has extensive economic interests across the country. The US estimates it could control or have significant influence over up to 50% of Iran’s economy, including non-military sectors like banking and shipping.
But he has also been accused of orchestrating a number of state-sanctioned terror attacks around the world, while offering support to terrorist organizations, charges Iran denies.
What is Canada’s terrorist list?
The list was created following the September 11 terrorist attacks under the Anti-terrorism Act, which amended the Criminal Code in 2001.
To be on the list, which now includes 73 groups, there must be “reasonable grounds to believe that an entity knowingly participated in or facilitated terrorist activity, or knowingly acted on behalf of, at the direction of, or in association with a such entity,” according to the Government of Canada website.
If designated, banks can freeze a group’s assets and the police can charge anyone who financially or materially supports such a group.
What has Canada said about the IRGC?
In June 2018, the federal Liberals supported a House of Commons motion put forward by the Conservatives that sought to “immediately designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a listed terrorist entity under the Criminal Code of Canada.” But since this motion, the IRGC has not yet been appointed.
There was a new surge last year after a The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that the shooting down of flight PS752 by the IRGC was an intentional act of terrorism and constitutes “terrorist activity”.
In response to Amini’s death, the federal government announced last month that it would take action under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to return key members of the Guardian Corps to Islamic Revolution (IRGC) – potentially 10,000 people – inadmissible to Canada.
And it was during this announcement that Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland called the leaders of the IRGC “terrorists” and the IRGC a “terrorist organization”.
Yet Canada has not taken the additional step of listing it as a terrorist entity.
So why doesn’t Canada list the IRGC as a terrorist entity?
At a press conference last month, Attorney General and Justice Minister David Lametti explained that since the IRGC is part of the Iranian military and military service is compulsory, there are fears that the Penal Code is a “brutal instrument” for dealing with the group. He said the government needed to target the real “bad actors without also catching innocent people”.
Including the IRGC in these terrorist lists could unfairly capture Iranians in Canada who oppose the regime and have fled it, but who have been conscripted into the IRGC.
“We don’t want to punish innocent people or those who oppose the regime,” he said.
Thomas Juneau, who majors in Middle East politics at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, agreed that the problem with the IRGC is that in more than 40 years of the Islamic Republic, there are more than “hundreds of thousands of people, mostly men, who have served in the IRGC, in many cases conscripts.
“They were cooks. They briefly held administrative or clerical positions in the 1990s or 2000s. Do you really want to punish them? In some cases they are innocent.”
Are there other reasons why the government might be reluctant?
Implementing the IRGC’s listing as a terrorist entity would require enormous resources, Juneau said. The demand such a list would place on agencies like the RCMP, CSIS, the Canada Border Services Agency and FINTRAC, the financial intelligence unit, would be massive, he said.
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“It’s not just about hiring five summer students. Hire people with very technical skills in financial intelligence and border security. You have to train them. They must obtain a security clearance, usually at the top secret level. ,” he said.
But there is also a legal issue that the government has not discussed that may be the most significant obstacle to including the IRGC on the list.
Andrew House, who specializes in national security law and was chief of staff to former public safety minister Vic Toews, said that under Stephen Harper’s government there had been a debate about the legal categorization on the type of entity to include in this list.
Under the Criminal Code, an entity is defined as “a person, group, trust, partnership or fund or unincorporated association or organization”.
This means that the IRGC, as an arm of the Iranian government, might technically not fall into this category; arguably, it is a state actor, which is liable to sanctions, but which would not be registered on a terrorist list.
“That’s the purist legal position,” House said. “The judges give a lot of importance to these types of differences. So, from a technical and legal point of view, the advice that was always given by the system itself was: “Hey, make sure you classify these things correctly”. You may have to fight this in court someday.'”
But in 2012, the Harper government wanted to send a signal that the IRGC’s conduct was terrorist in nature, despite objections from officials who wanted to maintain purity in legal categories, House said. A compromise was reached to include a branch of the IRGC, the Iranian Quds Force, on the list, the logic at the time being that it was more of a loosely affiliated militia, House said.
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“In the cold light of history. I don’t think that argument is any more defensible,” House said. “The Quds Force as we understand it is run by uniformed members of the IRGC. They are an integral part of the state. »
Still, House said that despite technical legal definitions, symbolic messages are important and he thinks the IRGC should be on the list because “we’ve already crossed that bridge”.
“Let’s go all out,” he said.
House points out that the Taliban, for example, are on the list and form the de facto government of Afghanistan.
“If you want it to be legally pure about it, you should take the Taliban off the list. And I don’t know anyone who would support that.”