US 'leader of world terrorism', Iran president says
The US is the real "leader of world terrorism", Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday, after Washington blacklisted Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a "foreign terrorist organisation".
Speaking at a ceremony to mark Iran's national nuclear technology day in Tehran, Rouhani defended the Revolutionary Guards as a force that has fought terrorism ever since its creation in 1979.
"Who are you to label revolutionary institutions as terrorists?" Rouhani asked in a speech broadcast live by state television.
The Islamic Republic's president accused US forces of having always been directly or indirectly involved with terrorist groups or acts of terrorism.
"You want to use terrorist groups as tools against the nations of the region... you are the leader of world terrorism.
"Who is propagating and encouraging terrorism in today's world? Who wanted to use ISIS (the Islamic State group) as a tool?" Rouhani asked, suggesting the US is harbouring the leaders of the jihadi organisation.
"Even now America is hiding the heads of ISIS, even now they are not prepared to tell the regional governments where the heads of ISIS are hiding."
To support his accusations, Rouhani cited the downing of Iran Air Flight 655 in July 1988 by missiles fired from the US naval ship the USS Vincennes.
"You have done everything imaginable. Which force was it that shot down our civil airliner in the waters of the Persian Gulf?" he said, adding that it was aimed at intimidating Iran.
"You wanted to tell the Iranian nation that we do not have any red lines, you wanted to say that we also kill children, you wanted to say that we also kill women," Rouhani said, concluding that the US was transmitting "a message of terrorism in the whole world."
Iran Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif on Monday urged President Hassan Rouhani to place US forces in Western Asia on Tehran's list of "terrorist" groups.
Zarif wrote to Rouhani asking him "to put the American Forces in Western Asia known as CENTCOM on the Islamic Republic of Iran's list of terrorist groups", the ministry said.
His request came shortly after the US announced that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) would be designated as a terrorist organisation.
Zarif also blasted the US move on Twitter, saying it was done to support Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ahead of Tuesday's parliamentary election, where the premier is seeking re-election.
"A(nother) misguided election-eve gift to Netanyahu. A(nother) dangerous US misadventure in the region," he wrote.
Part of America's vast military presence around the globe, CENTCOM's area of command covers multiple war zones and hotspots including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the Gulf.
The US decision came as part of already far-reaching attempts to undermine the Iranian government.
President Donald Trump said the "unprecedented" move "recognises the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft".
"The IRGC is the Iranian government's primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign," Trump said in a statement.
It is the first time the US has applied the designation to part of a foreign government, rather than guerrilla groups or other more informal entities.
The terrorist designation for the Revolutionary Guards is meant to strike at the heart of the Iranian government's power structure.
The elite force was formed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution with a mission to defend the clerical regime, in contrast to more traditional military units that protect the country's borders.
At home, it has amassed strong political and economic influence.
Abroad, the Guards' prized Quds Force, named for the Arabic word for Jerusalem, supports Iranian allies, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanon's Hizballah.
The move follows Trump's decision to pull the US out of a multilateral deal with Iran that was meant to lift crippling economic sanctions in return curbs on Tehran's nuclear programme.
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