Iran Guards 'join US terror list'
The US is preparing to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guards force as a foreign terrorist unit, US media reports say.
If confirmed, this will be the first time official armed units of a sovereign state are included in the list of banned terrorist groups.
The classification would allow the US to target the force's finances.
The US has repeatedly accused Iran of destabilising Iraq and Afghanistan, blaming the Revolutionary Guards for supplying and training insurgents.
There are currently 42 organisations on the state department's list of foreign terrorist organisations.
They include al-Qaeda, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and the Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
'Price to pay'
Unnamed administration officials told the New York Times and the Washington Post newspapers the decision to list the Revolutionary Guards was close to being announced.
The move was intended to increase the pressure on Iran amid growing concern in Washington that Tehran is funding and supporting insurgents in Iraq and the Taleban in Afghanistan, as well as groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the officials said.
- Officially the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), or Pasdaran
- Formed after 1979 revolution
- Loyal to clerics and counter to regular military
- Estimated 125,000 troops
- Includes ground forces, navy, air force, intelligence and special forces
- Also has political influence: dozens of ex-guard sit as MPs
- Iran President Ahmadinejad is a former member
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was behind the move to add the Guards to the list, the New York Times reported.
Ms Rice has championed a diplomatic approach to relations with Iran over the past 12 months.
But she was said to have backed the plan after progress on tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme by the UN Security Council became bogged down, the Times said.
Speaking at a news conference last week, President George W Bush hinted at a tougher stance against the Revolutionary Guards, accusing them of meddling across the Middle East.
"When we catch you playing a non-constructive role, there will be a price to pay," Mr Bush said.
The Revolutionary Guards force was established after the Islamic revolution toppled the Shah and brought hard-line clerics to power in Iran in 1979.
It is estimated to have 125,000 active members, and operates separately from Iran's main armed forces, boasting its own ground forces, navy, air force, intelligence and special forces capability.