Proposed legislation on Iran could put GIs at risk
Congress is considering a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran that could seriously threaten U.S. troops engaged in fighting Islamic State in the Middle East.
As a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, I am deeply concerned that efforts to counter Iran’s nefarious activities could have unintended consequences for our men and women in uniform. This bill is the perfect example of an attempt to “get tough” on Iran that could backfire, undermining the war against ISIS and endangering our troops.
The legislation, authored by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., directs the president to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group. The Quds Force, the branch of the IRGC primarily responsible for terrorist operations, has already been designated a terrorist group. Iran was designated a state sponsor of terrorism more than 30 years ago. The administration already has all the legal authority it needs to sanction individuals and entities in Iran that support terrorism.
Designating the IRGC will not impose new sanctions or directly affect its ability to support terrorist operations. This is a political gesture, not a practical one. The only potential benefit is signaling our intent to “get tough” on Iran. The risks posed by this designation far outweigh the minimal benefit.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration was considering designating the IRGC a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The administration held off due to concerns from defense and intelligence officials that the designation would imperil U.S. troops and undermine counter-ISIS operations. This bill uses a different statute for terrorism designations (Executive Order 13224 rather than Section 219), but the threat to our troops is the same.
Designating the Revolutionary Guard would seriously endanger the lives of American troops in the Middle East. The IRGC collaborates with U.S. forces in the war against ISIS, supporting Iraqi forces and Shiite militia members fighting alongside our military in Iraq and Syria. This designation could provoke them into withdrawing that support, undermining the effort against ISIS and increasing the burden on our troops. Worse, it could create a dangerous backlash by the IRGC and its proxies against Americans and our allies in the region.
Our men and women in uniform face life-threatening challenges daily. The last thing they need is for Congress to increase those threats in a misguided attempt to appear tough on Iran.
There is no question that Iran poses a threat to the United States and our allies. The nuclear agreement negotiated by the U.S. and our allies succeeded in blocking Iran’s paths to the bomb, but other threats remain — not only Iran’s support for terrorism, but also human rights violations and its continued development of ballistic missiles. We cannot ignore these threats, but we need to put the lives of our troops first and develop a sound strategy to counter Iran without needlessly endangering our military.
First and foremost, we must work with our allies to develop an international consensus on the path forward with Iran. Hasty, unilateral actions will not solve this problem. In fact, bills like Corker-Menendez will only increase the threat to our military forces and our national security.
Policymakers must take the concerns of our troops and military leaders into account and work with the administration and our international allies to craft a strategy that effectively addresses the Iranian threat without putting American lives at risk.
Molly Spino is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and member of VoteVets, the largest progressive veterans organization in the United States.