Eid Mubarak

Rise to Peace wishes you joy, happiness, peace, and prosperity on this blessed occasion. #EidMubarak!

Can the Taliban Balance Their Wants with Lasting Peace?

f8ff1644a52b419da917857bb8a83b17 18 - Can the Taliban Balance Their Wants with Lasting Peace?

Officials, including Afghan former President Hamid Karzai (2nd R, front), Head of Political Office of Taliban Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai (R, front) and Taliban chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (3rd R, front), attend peace talks in Moscow, Russia May 30, 2019. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

On May 28th, the Taliban’s co-founder and head of its political office, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, attended events commemorating 100 years of Afghanistan-Russia diplomatic relations in Moscow. Baradar’s appearance remains noteworthy as it was his primary outing as a public representative of the Taliban and his lone media appearance since his rise to prominence in the 1990s. Peace talks occurred on the sidelines.

Baradar’s Impact

Participation of a senior member of the Taliban, like Mullah Baradar, could feasibly result in positive developments for ongoing peace talks. He was the right-hand of leader Mullah Omar and led large army of the group in many operations for the Taliban until he was caught in 2010. He held key positions in the Taliban regime and consequently involved in major decisions at the highest levels.

For instance, in an interview with BBC Pashto, the former governor of Balkh province Ata Mohammad Noor remarked, “Mullah Baradar is a thoughtful person and can play a significant role in brokering and discussion with members of the Taliban because he is the second person in command and during the Taliban regime, he was an influential figure who had helped to make major decisions for the Taliban leadership.” Noor expressed hope for future discussions by adding, “we are looking to an Afghan lead process so we can work to reach a deal in the future.”

While hope surrounds Baradar’s presence in the peace process, his demands remain high. For example, an end to the “invasion of Afghanistan.” He regards the United States and the international community as invaders occupying Afghanistan against its will. Mullah Baradar expressed this view when he remarked, “the Islamic Emirate wants peace but the hurdles on the way to peace should be removed.”

Complicated Relations

Uncertainties over actual Taliban willingness to sincerely engage in a peace process permeate any dialogue. According to a participant who attended the meeting, “Taliban do not have freedom of mindset and they are being steered by an authority behind the scene. They can only speak pre-made statements and answers and do not answer more than that.” For instance, when asked a question concerning American activities in the Gulf countries, Mullah Baradar laughed and walked away.

At a later press conference, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the political chief of the Taliban, conveyed reluctance to engage in an organized framework. Stanikzai explained that “we control over 70% of Afghanistan…and I do not see any reason for opening a Taliban office in Afghanistan for negotiations.”

“How a ceasefire will be possible when the country is ‘occupied’?” asked Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman of the Taliban.

Both Mullah Baradar and Stanikzai have valid points. The Taliban wants the global community to understand the strength of the organization and to not underestimate their clout. They are a resilient force that cannot be treated as a small group of militants that will easily concede two decades of resistance and a mission to build an Islamic Emirate. It is unrealistic to perceive an exchange of influence in order to submit to a government installed by the United States and its allies.

Taliban Hesitation to Negotiating with the Afghan Government
The Taliban continually reject negotiations with the Afghan government because they continue to enjoy a strong reputation amongst the status quo of Afghan politics. They perceive authorities in Kabul as illegitimate and weak. Therefore, Taliban leadership have said numerous times that “we will negotiate with the United States.” To the Taliban, the United States is the actual powerbroker in an Afghan resolution and Washington can do so much to make this happen.

Past LessonsBetween the 1980s-90s, Mujahidin viewed the Afghan communist regime as illegitimate and lacked authority to make substantial decisions. As a result, they refused to negotiate with Kabul and engaged in direct discourse with the Soviet leadership in Moscow. Three years after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, thus ending the decade long Soviet-Afghan War, the communist government collapsed. Subsequent divisions stemming from the 1989-92 Afghan Civil War provided the Taliban with opportunities to expand their influence.

Should the United States Leave Afghanistan?

The current Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — popularly referred to as a capitalist regime —will meet a similar fate if the United States disengages. This decision will have detrimental effects on nearly two decades of achievements combatting terrorism and the establishment of infrastructure. Recent research conducted in 14 Afghan provinces (450 participants) by the non-profit organization Rise to Peace revealed that 90% of respondents prefer that the United States remain in Afghanistan to prevent another civil war and a cruel regime.

Ahmad Mohibi is Founder and Director of Counter-terrorism at Rise to Peace, a non-profit organization, and a national security expert. He is a published author, journalist and news commentator on TOLONews, and an alumnus of George Washington University and George Mason University. Follow him on Twitter at @ahmadsmohibi

Will the United Kingdom’s Online Harms White Paper Curb Extremism but Allow Expression?

On April 8, Theresa May turned to Twitter to make a bold statement. Upon the release of the United Kingdom’s Online Harms White Paper, a tweet noted, “The era of social media companies regulating themselves is over.” The 102-page policy document urges the establishment of new regulations which will hold all social media companies liable for harmful and extremist content. Is this a sensible way to deal with digital extremism?

Social media companies and platforms have a part to play in making the internet a safer place. In order to combat harmful content, the United Kingdom seeks to hold companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter responsible. Authorities in the United Kingdom plan to enforce penalties for harmful content, which would be a fine of 4% of global turnover or 20 million euro ($23 million), whichever is greater.

In addition to the fines, the United Kingdom aspires to create a regulatory body, and enact bans and restrictions on user content, limiting what citizens can view. Regulations on internet freedoms and bans will undoubtedly anger citizens. Countries such as Russia and China have similar authoritarian beliefs. Liberal democratic nations adopting parallel legislation potentially legitimizes such restrictions and can be viewed as a victory for extremists.

Overreaction by the government of the United Kingdom has extremely detrimental consequences. Changing online regulations and censoring citizens is a flawed legislative move. Passing this particular law encourages extremists because it shows their actions initiate socio-political change and cause legislative action. Further, it provokes pessimism in financial markets by causing a greater risk for tech startups.

Proactive responses to digital extremism and hoping to make the internet a safer place are at the core of the United Kingdom’s argument. The May government is correct in its mission, but its execution needs more work. Fining social media companies and censorship of user content seems more like a punishment rather than a solution.

The United Kingdom is faced with a few considerations should it proceed with the proposed White Paper. Public safety is of the utmost importance, as is the ability of free expression. Fining companies for the negligence of extreme content is justifiable. As extreme content lingers, it continues to spread. Thus, social media platforms are directly responsible for stopping hateful and extremist messaging.

Major social media companies — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube — must update their Terms of Service and ask all users to act as moderators. If content appears to be approaching an extreme or violent conclusion, it should be reported by the community. False reports regarding extreme content should have penalties as well, in order to ensure users are being responsible. This avenue permits millions to help protect cyberspace on their own terms. It would allow citizens to come together to combat online hate, which presents a powerful message against extremism.

If the UK plans on changing its online usage and how its users interact in online spaces, the people should have a say. The solutions in the United Kingdom’s Online Harms White Paper need to be more focused. The 12 weeks of consultation have begun and will end July 1st.

Currently, the resolutions to the proposed issues are very broad and seem severe. The best way to ensure a safer internet space is to create a unified community of users. Group accountability will help ensure the internet is a safer place as the people of the United Kingdom define it. This could be the beginning of a safer internet and a model for other countries.

Can John Walker Lindh “American Taliban” Be De-radicalized?

The United States Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) is set to release the “American Taliban”, John Walker Lindh, after serving 17 years of a 20-year sentence.

US Special Operations Forces and the Northern Alliance arrested the “American Taliban” in November 2001 in Afghanistan. A plea bargain with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) led Lindh to accept guilt for “supporting militants who harbored al-Qaeda as it planned the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001” in exchange for two decades of incarceration.

Origins of the “American Taliban”

Lindh was raised in California and Maryland. He converted to Islam at age 16 (prior to 9/11) and travelled to study Arabic in Yemen in 1998. All this occurred two months before the establishment of Google.

After Lindh completed Arabic lessons, he moved to Pakistan where encounters with members of extremist groups (al-Qaeda, Taliban) compelled him to settle in Afghanistan. There he received training at an al-Qaeda training camp as a Taliban militant.

In the 1990s, Pakistan served as the birthplace for the Taliban and it acted as the center of further extremist development. Operational planning, recruitment, equipping soldiers and brainwashing of children that were brought from vulnerable communities in Afghanistan occurred there. Pakistan recognized the Taliban regime, harbored Osama Bin Laden and supported the Islamic Emirate legacy until the present day.

Impediments to Reintegration
The US federal prison system has a lack of de-radicalization programs thus it is difficult to predict how well Lindh will adapt to reintegration. Certainly, it will be challenging for a person with radical philosophies, such as Lindh, to let go of his grievances and circulation of the mandate of the Islamic Emirate of the Taliban.

Digital technology and communications, such as Google, complicates the scenario for Lindh too. Access to swift and boundless information provides another possible impediment to de-radicalization. Law enforcement and the intelligence community must monitor and regulate his actions. As part of his release, “Mr. Lindh will also be barred from traveling internationally and getting a passport or any other kind of travel document.”

A young American teenager who made his way to Osama Bin Laden and revealed information to al-Qaeda will not cease unless he is de-radicalized. It is foolish to simply trust a loyal member of a terrorist group to renounce those attitudes.

For instance, in 2002, he denounced the 9/11 attacks as “completely against Islam” and tearfully told the judge “I have never supported terrorism in any form, and I never will…I made a mistake by joining the Taliban.” He maintained, “Had I realized then what I know now, I would never have joined them.”

This is in direct opposition to recent statements. In a 2017 report, Lindh “continued to advocate for global jihad and to write and translate violent extremist texts.” Was he further radicalized in the prison system during the US Iraq War in 2003 and later the Arab Spring?

Sober Reality and Solutions

Lindh can be de-radicalized and re-enter society if he is provided with necessary mentoring from those of a similar background while under supervision. If not, two possible reasons foretell why he will not exit his previous life of the 1990s-2000 so easily. First, he accepted his own version of Islam and joined the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. The Taliban view of Islam is harsh, extreme and is not Islamic. So, religiously, he is not going to change unless he is sent to a Muslim scholar to teach him the true Islam.

Second, his loyalty to the Taliban and al-Qaeda may not easily end because one feature that unites membership of terrorist organizations (ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Shabab, and Taliban, etc.) is their dedication to the mission. They assert a lawful war “jihad” against the United States and allies is right.

Particularly, after 9/11 and the Iraq War, this concept became significant to justification of their actions. Simple operations such as detonating a bomb in a populated area or maneuvering a bus to kill innocent people contribute to a larger lawful war. To them, this is acceptable because their religion, Islam, is under threat by the “crusaders,” “capitalists,” and “infidels.”

There are 346 people convicted of terrorism since 2001 and 88 have since been released. For every convicted extremist facing release, the intelligence community and law enforcement agencies should devote significant attention to individual files and monitor the person 24/7 to prevent any attempt of violence.

Next, US government agencies should fund and support the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE, PVE) organizations so they can mentor and support Lindh as well as other related cases as part of the reintegration process.

The FBOP, DOJ, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and local governments have not yet developed a reintegration strategy to help foreign fighter extremists to reunite with his/her society. There is a substantial need for a comprehensive strategy in the prison system to begin de-radicalization and following programs to aid their reentrance into society.

De-radicalization is the very first step in connecting former extremists to society by helping the individual change his/her ideas and attitudes. It’s a system where the individual receives the opportunity needed to begin a new life, whether it’s granting access to job platforms, libraries, and training, or even an interpersonal or personal relationship to help heal the person’s grievances, beliefs, and confusion. In the case of Lindh, it’s imperative that he gets the support he needs in order to leave behind the radical thoughts and support for groups like ISIS and the Taliban. An engagement as simple as a conversation with a Muslim living in his community can help make a difference in his life.

Jesse Morton, a former extremist, assisted the FBI to arrest more radicals while he was “de-rad”. Jess left his radical thoughts behind as he went through a series of transformations in his life. First, the FBI agents support and non-judgmental demeanor towards him. Later, his employment as a Research Fellow on Extremism at the George Washington University. An finally, today, his organization, Light Upon Light, to counter extremism. Jesse Morton is one of the best examples that de-radicalization is possible and successful. The two individuals share enough similarities and commonalities to suggest that the de-radicalization process for Jesse will work for Lindh.

Ultimately, Lindh needs to understand that the groups (Taliban, ISIS) he advocated and fought for are wrong. To do so, he needs outside help the same way Jesse Morton did. Lindh converted to Islam as a teenager and shortly after joined the Taliban. Soon after that, he was arrested and placed behind bars for 17 years. He doesn’t fully understand the true meaning of Islam or what it means to live in a society where Muslims can pray, protest and work alongside non-Muslim peers in peace, acceptance, and appreciation.

Ahmad Mohibi is Founder and Director of Counter-terrorism at Rise to Peace, a non-profit organization, and a national security expert. He is a published author, journalist and news commentator on TOLONews, and an alumnus of George Washington University and George Mason University. Follow him on Twitter at @ahmadsmohibi

Advocates push for additional visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program

GettyImages 476979067 57607c575f9b58f22e0b9944 - Advocates push for additional visas for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program

Photos courtesy: GettyImages. Afghan local interpreter is interpreting for the US military in Afghanistan

The Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2019, as enacted on February 15, 2019, authorized 4,000 additional SIVs for Afghan principal applicants, for a total of 18,500 visas allocated since December 19, 2014.

What is the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program? 

The current visa program for the Afghans who were Employed by/on Behalf of the U.S. Government is called Chief of Mission (COM). Iraqi and Afghan translators and interpreters who have worked directly (not as contractors) for U.S. Embassy Baghdad or U.S. Embassy Kabul are considered to have been under COM authority. Anyone (interpreters, chefs, contractors, guards who have worked directly for the U.S. government programs and projects in Afghanistan are eligible to apply for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) under Chief of Mission (COM).

In the beginning, visas were only allocated to the Afghan and Iraqi translators who worked with the U.S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission authority as a translator or interpreter in Iraq or Afghanistan. In 2009, the program expanded to all Afghan nationals who provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. government, while employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan and continues until the present day.

Visas and Obstacles?

Visas are limited for the Afghans and it depends on Congress to continue or end the program. But this Fiscal Year (FY), the Congress authorized 4,000 additional SIVs for Afghan principal applicants, for a total of 18,500 visas allocated since December 19, 2014. There are thousands of cases pending to COM approval, waiting for interviews and hundreds waiting to receive visas. Although it seems a big figure, is not enough for thousands of Afghans who courageously supported the United Staes Global War on Terror in Afghanistan risking theirs and families lives.

Legislative History of SIV

FY 2006: Under section 1059 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 (Public Law 109-163), up to 50 Iraqi and Afghan translators/interpreters who worked for the U.S. Armed Forces to receive special immigrant visas (SIVs) each fiscal year (FY). This law was later amended and now provides SIV status for eligible Iraqi and Afghan translators/interpreters who have worked either directly with the U.S. Armed Forces or under Chief of Mission (COM) authority at U.S. Embassy Baghdad or U.S. Embassy Kabul.

FY 2007 and 2008: Public Law 110-36 and Public Law 110-242 in which then-President Bush signed on June 15, 2007, amended the law above by expanding the total number of SIVs issued to Iraqi and Afghan translators/interpreters working for the U.S. military to 500 a year for FY 2007 and FY 2008 only.

FY 2009: The Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, Section 602(b) of Division F, Title VI, of the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, (Public Law 111-8), This law allowed up to 1,500 Afghan nationals who provided faithful and valuable service to the U.S. government, while employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan after October 7, 2001, for not less than one year, and who have experienced or are experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of that employment, to receive special immigrant visas (SIVs) annually through FY 2013, with the allocation of any unused visas from FY 2013 to FY 2014. The period of qualifying employment was later extended under subsequent legislation. See law above.

FY 2014: The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014, Section 7034(o) of Division K, Title VII of Public Law 113-76, This law, signed on January 17, 2014, extended the Afghan SIV Program. It authorized the issuance of 3,000 visas to principal applicants in fiscal year (FY) 2014 and allowed that any unissued visas from FY 2014 be allocated to FY 2015.

FY 2014: Emergency Afghan Allies Extension Act of 2014, Section 1 of Public Law 113-160, This law, signed on August 8, 2014, extended the Afghan SIV Program. It authorized the issuance of 1,000 visas to principal applicants by December 31, 2014.

FY 2015: National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2015, Section 1227 of Public Law 113-291, This law, signed on December 19, 2014, extended the Afghan SIV Program. It authorized the issuance of 4,000 visas to principal applicants by September 30, 2016.

FY 2016: National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2016, Section 1216 of Public Law 114-92, This law, signed on November 25, 2015, extends and amends the Afghan SIV Program. It authorizes the issuance of 3,000 additional visas to principal applicants with no end date by which they must be issued.

FY 2017: National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2017, Section 1214 of Public Law 114-326, This law, signed on December 23, 2016, extends and amends the Afghan SIV Program.  It authorizes the issuance of 1,500 additional visas to principal applicants with no end date by which they must be issued.  It also extends the date by which applicants must apply for Chief of Mission approval from December 31, 2016 to December 31, 2020.

FY 2017: Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2017, Section 7083 of Public Law 115-31, his law, signed on May 5, 2017, authorizes the issuance of 2,500 additional visas to Afghan principal applicants with no end date by which they must be issued.

FY 2018: National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2018, Section 1213 of Public Law 115-91, This law, signed on December 12, 2017, authorizes the issuance of 3,500 additional visas to Afghan principal applicants with no end date by which they must be issued.

FY 2019: The Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2019, as enacted on February 15, 2019, authorized 4,000 additional SIVs for Afghan principal applicants, for a total of 18,500 visas allocated since December 19, 2014.

The Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program is a great way to appreciate those who have served faithfully alongside the brave American troops abroad to begin a new life in the United States and bring innovative ideas for growth and success.

The New Arab Spring

Image courtesy of the Washington Post

Many remember where they were when they first experienced the Arab Spring in late 2010. The wave of revolutions which engulfed the Middle East/North Africa region was inspired by Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in Tunisia. Bouazizi’s suicide served as the flashpoint for the Tunisian revolution in which citizens of the country protested against the oppressive regime of then President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The Tunisian Revolution became the Egyptian revolution which then led to the Libyan revolution, the Syrian Revolution also occurred around this same time. Bahrain, Morocco, and Yemen also saw demonstrations. The Arab Spring marked a cultural revolution within the MENA region and showed the power of civil resistance.

Fast forward nine years later and it seems as though a new wave of revolutions is occurring that shares similarities to the movements of the Arab Spring. Both Sudan and Algeria have both recently led revolutions that have removed dictators from power. In Sudan, citizens have been leading protests for weeks aimed at removing Omar Hassan al-Bashir from power. Their protests finally reaped their rewards when the military announced that al-Bashir had been removed from power after nearly four months of protests by the Sudanese citizens. The former dictator ruled the country with an iron fist for 30 years. During this time Sudan was plagued by famine and war, a war which led to the creation of South Sudan, the newest country in the world. However, to the people of Sudan the ousting of al-Bashir was not enough, they wanted all remnants of his regime removed. The Defense Minister and head of the Sudanese military Awad Ibn Auf announced he would be taking the place of al-Bashir. Many of the Sudanese people viewed this as a lateral move and believed that nothing would change if Ibn Auf took power. They continued their protests causing Ibn Auf to step down from power after just a few days as the head of the country. This act showed that they had learned from the previous failings of many of the participating countries in the first Arab Spring. The first Arab Spring was defined by successful attempts to remove oppressive leaders only to be followed by transitional governments that shared many of the same policies and rhetoric of the original dictator. The people of Sudan wanted to topple the entire regime of al-Bashir.

Algeria is another country where protests recently removed a long-time autocrat from power. The protests in Algeria helped to remove President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office. Bouteflika had been in power for over 20 years and was in a declining state of health which included paralysis, he had not even addressed the country publicly since 2013. The mass demonstrations began after Bouteflika announced that he would be running for a fifth straight term. There was much resentment all over the country from all sectors, including the military whose chief of staff enlisted the help of the country’s Constitutional Council to declare Bouftelika unfit for office. However, to the Algerian citizens this only served as a front for a dying regime. Similar to the people of Sudan, the people of Algeria wanted institutional changes within the government. Smain Kouadria, an activist in the opposition Workers’ Party stated, “All the senators are children of the system. The announcement of his resignation is simply part of the rescue operation for a dying system” The problem facing the country now is who will lead the country moving forward. Many of the young people have only known the reign of Bouftelika and refuse to accept another member from his regime. The government has chosen to appoint Abdelkader Bensalah interim president in the meantime until the proper elections can be held which are scheduled for July 4th. However, these elections are scheduled to be held and be fair, but the opposition has not been able to unite around a candidate who would be able to challenge the remnants of the regime.

The revolutions in Algeria and Sudan that have toppled these long-time autocrats signal hope for these countries moving forward. However, these revolutions cannot be deemed successful until the government that succeeds them is put in place through democratic means or that has the approval of the citizens. The fact that these revolutions were successful and their demands were met through nonviolent means shows that nonviolent revolutions are possible. The aftermath of the Arab Spring has left an impression on the minds of those who are participating in the revolutions as we saw in Sudan and Algeria. Even after the ousting of the original dictator, the people continued their revolution to ensure that other members of his cabinet did not replace him and just continue with their policies. One can only hope that the success of these revolutions may inspire others in the Arab world to led successful revolutions against their government.

U.S Increases Pressure on Iran, but at What Cost?

On April 8th the Trump Administration designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organization. It marks the first time the U.S has taken this action against an entity of a foreign government.[1] Until now, terrorists were always considered “non-state actors.” Iran, however, has been labeled a state-sponsor of terrorism since 1984. The result of this designation is sweeping economic and travel sanctions on the IRGC, as well as sanctions on any individuals or companies associated with the organization[2] The IRGC will be added to a list with 67 other terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Ashstar Brigades.

The U.S. intent in designating IRGC a terrorist organization remains unclear, but the decision appears to have been made with haste, as Mike Pompeo, the U.S Secretary of State, was pressured by State Department officials to delay the announcement. The exact plan for implementation also remains unclear, as according to the New York Times, American officials in Baghdad said they had “no guidance” on how to enforce the policy. In fact, it has been argued that the Administration’s decision was not made for strategic reasons, but instead at the request of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Last week was Israel’s elections, thus, the decision has been decried as an attempt to boost his popularity.[3]

Whether or not the decision was made at the behest of Prime Minister Netanyahu, it reflects the United States’ hawkish strategy to isolate and provoke the Iranian government. Last May, the Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal that was negotiated by former President Barrack Obama. In November, the administration reinstated wide-ranging economic sanctions on Iran. In the State Department’s announcement the sanctions were deemed part of the U.S government’s “maximum pressure campaign” to counter Iran’s influence in funding terrorist groups and to counter their support for Assad’s regime in Syria.[4] Especially given the United States’ already existing sanctions on Iran, it is uncertain if the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization will achieve any strategic goals or meaningful reduction in terrorism.

However, it does seem certain that the designation will have unintended consequences. It may provoke anti-American sentiment in the region, encouraging local militia groups and terrorist organizations to retaliate to American presence. In particular, American forces in Iraq are endangered due to Iraqi Shiite militants that have been trained by Iranian military officials to fight American troops. This concern isn’t hypothetical, following the administration’s announcement, Iranian lawmakers dressed in military uniforms chanted “Death to America,” during their opening session of Parliament.[5] Days after the announcement, a car bomb attack in Afghanistan killed three U.S service members.

Instead of using methods that will provoke anti-American sentiments, the U.S should consider diplomatic channels. One of the purposes of the administration’s decision to label the IRGC as a terrorist organization is to force changes to their ballistic missile program and reduce their financing of militant groups in Iraq and Syria. However, the designation is antithetical to the administration’s strategy, as reliance on unilateral, hostile measures make it less likely that Iran will accede to American demands. Iran has already demonstrated their unwillingness to cooperate with U.S when it uses forceful measures; in fact, Iran’s response to the American designation was to retaliate by labeling the regional United States Central Command a terrorist organization.

A strategy focused on diplomatic engagement should include a renegotiation of the Iran nuclear deal. The nuclear agreement can be successful, especially because it has support from the international community including important U.S partners like the European Union. Unilateral pressure will be insufficient, therefore, the administration will need multilateral support and a willingness to open up spaces for negotiation. This won’t come easily, due to President Trump’s record of using force rather than diplomacy, it will be difficult to build trust amongst Iranian lawmakers that the United States is legitimately changing course. But if the Trump Administration wants to ensure reginal stability and protect American troops, it should reconsider its decision to label the IRGC as a terrorist organization and its decision to withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.

[1] Iran Warns US of ‘Dangerous Consequences’ As Saudi Arabia and Israel Back U.S Move. Accessed April 12th 2019. Received from https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2019/04/09/iran-designates-u-s-military-a-terrorist-organization-warns-of-dangerous-consequences/#2b888013ede2.

[2] Trump Designates Iran Revolutionary Guards a Foreign Terrorist Group. Accessed April 14th 2019. Received from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/08/world/middleeast/trump-iran-revolutionary-guard-corps.html.

[3] US labeling of IRGC meant to cater to Israel, experts say. Accessed April 14th 2019. Retrieved from https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/04/09/592958/US-IRGC-Israel.

[4] Sanctions Announcement on Iran. Accessed April 14th 2019. Retrieved from https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/11/287500.htm

[5] Designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terror group could jeopardize U.S troops. Accessed April 14th 2019. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/designating-iran-s-revolutionary-guard-terror-group-could-jeopardize-u-n992356.

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