ISTANBUL -- Iran's leaders united Tuesday in defense of its Revolutionary Guard Corps after a U.S. decision to designate it as a terrorist group, calling the move "a mistake" and warning of potential repercussions in the region.
President Donald Trump on Monday announced the decision against Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the country's most potent military force, describing it as a way to "expand the scope and scale of our maximum pressure on the Iranian regime." The decision would allow the administration to seek criminal penalties against elements of the agency.
Iran's leaders showed unity in the face of the U.S. move, which targeted one of the most revered institutions in the Islamic Republic.
The Revolutionary Guard was established in 1979 to protect the Islamic revolution that had just overthrown Iran's long-ruling monarchy.
Lawmakers showed up in parliament Tuesday wearing the olive green fatigues of the Guard in solidarity and opened the session with chants of "Death to America."
President Hassan Rouhani called the U.S. move a mistake and said it would only boost the organization's popularity, both at home and abroad. "You thought that if you speak against [the Guard], divisions would arise or you could reduce its popularity," Rouhani said, according to the Mehr news agency.
He spoke at an event marking National Nuclear Day and also warned that U.S. efforts would not hinder Iran's "scientific progress" -- Iran's development of a nuclear power program that could possibly be used to produce weapons has long been of great international concern.
Last year, Trump withdrew the United States from a nuclear deal Iran struck with world powers. The pact limited Iran's nuclear energy program in exchange for widespread sanctions relief.
On Tuesday, Rouhani announced the installation of new centrifuges at the Natanz facility in Isfahan province.
The move is not a violation of the nuclear accord, to which Iran is still a party. It allows for the limited production and testing of advanced centrifuges but without using them to enrich uranium.
But Rouhani signaled Tuesday that Iran may be willing to push the limits.
"If you continue to walk down this road, you will see IR-8 centrifuges in the future," he said, referring to a more advanced, high capacity device. "Our patience has a threshold."
Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, held his own event, speaking to members of the Revolutionary Guard and their families and lauded their role in "defending the country and the revolution."
He said such "plots" will come back to haunt Trump and his administration, according to a transcript of the remarks posted on Khamenei's website.
Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, meanwhile, raised the specter of problems in the the Persian Gulf, where elements of the Iranian and American navies often confront each other in the waterway that carries 20 percent of the world's oil shipments.
"New incidents may happen," he said, according to the state Islamic Republic News Agency.
A Section on 04/10/2019
Print Headline: Iran rallies behind terror-labeled Guard