Iraqi militias deny U.S. labeling Iranian guards a terrorist group

NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) – An Iraqi Shiite militia group said on Saturday it strongly rejects the designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization by the United States.

The groups, backed and trained by Tehran, made a statement from the home of Iran’s consul general in the Shia holy city of Najaf.

They announced their solidarity with the Muslim people and the Revolutionary Guards who they say helped prevent four or five states from falling to Islamic State militants.

President Donald Trump said last week that he would label Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization.

The action by Trump, who took a hard line on Iran by withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and reimposing sweeping economic sanctions, marks the first time the United States has officially called the another country’s army of terrorist group.

“It’s laughable coming from the number one sponsor of terrorism, America,” a spokesman for the Badr organization said, without providing evidence.

Badr is led by Iraqi militia commander and politician Hadi al-Ameri, which is the Fateh coalition of militia groups that holds the second-largest number of seats in Iraq’s parliament.

“We reject this action by America and say that we are honored to be in the Islamic resistance that has fought and defeated terrorism,” a spokesman for Fatah’s broader coalition said.

Some of the militias themselves are designated as terrorist organizations by Washington.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday that Washington’s decision to designate the IRGC as a terrorist group could harm his country and the wider region.

Iraqi security forces declared victory over Islamic State in 2017 with the help of a US-led coalition and Iran-backed Shiite militias, some of which fought US troops earlier after the 2003 American invasion that overthrew Saddam Hussein.

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