Saudi Arabia has alleged that its military arrested three members of Shiite Iran’s hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who were plotting to carry out a terrorist attack on a major offshore oilfield in the Persian Gulf.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is reportedly weighing whether or not to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization officially.
The Associated Press (AP) reveals:
Saudi Arabia’s Information Ministry said in a statement the three were onboard a boat carrying a large number of explosives headed toward the Marjan oil field, located off the kingdom’s eastern shores between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The statement said the three were detained on Friday and accused them of intending to carry out a terrorist operation in Saudi territorial waters.
Majid Aghababaei, an Interior Ministry official in Tehran, has denied the Saudi kingdom’s claims, saying the three captives are Iranian fishermen rather than IRGC members, points out AP, citing the Islamic Republic’s semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
“The announcement [of the arrests] comes after Iranian state television accused Saudi Arabia’s coast guard of killing an Iranian fisherman on Friday,” mentions AP. “Several Iranian news websites also reported that two Iranian boats were shot at over the weekend as they approached a Saudi oil rig.”
The IRGC is known to operate beyond the Middle East, particularly in Latin America, through so-called “cultural centers” located across Western Hemisphere, posing a direct threat to the United States.
IRGC members answer directly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose power far exceeds that of country’s president.
In February, Reuters learned from U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity that the Trump administration “is considering a proposal that could lead to potentially designating Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization.”
The United States government has already blacklisted several IRGC-linked entities and people, including the notorious Brig. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic guard’s Quds Force, charged with Iranian operations abroad.
U.S. officials have affiliated the IRGC’s Quds Force with both Shiite and Sunni terrorist organizations, including the Shiite narco-terror group Hezbollah, Afghanistan’s Sunni Taliban jihadists, and the Sunni Palestinian group Hamas, among others.
The IRGC’s Quds Force is Iran’s “primary arm for executing its policy of supporting terrorist and insurgent groups,” according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
U.S. Defense Secretary has described Iran as “the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world.” Meanwhile, the Trump administration has expressed strong support for Saudi Arabia.
The United States has accused both Iran and Saudi Arabia of human rights violations and supporting terrorism.
However, experts such as Gerald Feierstein, who served as principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at former President Barack Obama’s State Department, argue that “allegations of widespread Saudi support for extremist groups appear generally overblown.”
Iran accuses Saudi Arabia of facilitating the Islamic State’s (ISIS/ISIL) first attack on Iranian soil this month that left 18 people dead and dozens of others injured.