TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s parliament voted Saturday to designate the CIA and the U.S. Army as “terrorist organizations,” a largely symbolic response to a U.S. Senate resolution seeking a similar designation for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
The parliament said the Army and the CIA were terrorists because of the atomic bombing of Japan; the use of depleted uranium munitions in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq; support of the killings of Palestinians by Israel; the bombing and killing Iraqi civilians and the torture of imprisoned terror suspects.
“The aggressor U.S. Army and the Central Intelligence Agency are terrorists and also nurture terror,” said a statement by the 215 lawmakers who signed the resolution at an open session of the 290-member Iranian parliament. The session was broadcast live on state-run radio.
The resolution, which urges Ahmadinejad’s government to treat the two as terrorist organizations, would become law if ratified by the country’s hardline constitutional watchdog but probably would have little effect as the two nations have no diplomatic relations.
Ahmadinejad’s government was expected to wait for U.S. reaction before making its decision. The White House declined to comment Saturday.
The U.S. Senate voted Wednesday in favor of a resolution urging the State Department to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. Charged with defending the system put in place after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Guards answer to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and are revered by many for their defense of the country during the 1980s war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
The terrorist designation, the first such move against a foreign government entity, would cut the Revolutionary Guards off from the U.S. financial system and freeze the assets of its members or subsidiaries have in U.S. jurisdictions. It would also allow the Treasury to move against firms subject to U.S. law that do business with the Guards, which have vast business interests at home and abroad.
While the proposal attracted overwhelming bipartisan support, a small group of Democrats said they feared that labeling the state-sponsored organization a terrorist group could be interpreted as a congressional authorization of military action in Iran.
Back home after a tour of the U.S. and Latin America, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the hostile reception he received at Columbia University failed to damage Iran’s image and instead hurt America’s prestige abroad.
University President Lee Bollinger said before an Ahmadinejad speech at his university that the hard-line leader exhibited “all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator” who was “brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated” for his denials of the Holocaust.
Ahmadinejad, who appeared shaken and irate but did not reciprocate the insult, said that the world had witnessed “the greatness of the Iranian nation” in the face of “insults” by its American host.
“With the grace of God, the Columbia University issue revealed their aggressive and mean-spirited image. … It backfired. What happened was exactly opposite of what their shallow minds had presumed,” Ahmadinejad said late Friday in comments broadcast Saturday on state television. “I believe they made a big mistake. … They sacrificed the prestige of their whole system.”
The harsh reception boosted Ahmadinejad’s image at home during a time of high tensions with Washington over U.S. allegations that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons and supplying Iraq’s Shiite militias with deadly weapons that have killed U.S. troops. Iran denies both claims.
After Ahmadinejad told world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly in New York that his country would defy attempts to impose new sanctions by “arrogant powers” seeking to curb its nuclear program, accusing them of lying and imposing illegal penalties on his country.
Iran and the U.S. have not had diplomatic ties since Iranian students took American diplomats hostage in Tehran following the 1979 overthrow of U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Iranians have a long list of grievances against the United States, including a CIA-backed coup in 1953 that overthrew democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and put Pahlavi back on the throne.
More recently, there are fears in Iran that either the U.S. or Israel will carry out a military strike against it — something Iranian officials have said would provoke retaliation against Israeli or U.S. bases in the region.
Washington has said it is addressing the situation through diplomacy but refuses to rule out the use of military action.