>> Only days remain until US President Donald Trump is expected to roll out a more aggressive plan for containing Iran. Including the fate of a favorite punching bag, the 2015 Nuclear Agreement.
But he's also expected to designate an entire branch of Iran's military as terrorists, the Revolutionary Guard. Iranian officials threatening a quote reciprocal move in turn. These labels are more than just words. For one thing, a terrorist designation for the Guard would likely bring with it sanctions across the whole of the organization.
Iran's most powerful force with its own ground, naval, and air divisions. The US government has sanctioned individuals and entities with ties to the Guard in the past, including a special forces unit in 2007. But historically, Washington has shied away from labeling as terrorists any military belonging to a recognized government, partly because it would open up American troops to the same label.
Analysts say the move can be risky, as it means soldiers on both sides lose protections granted by the Geneva Convention. For example, American civilians detained in Iran have often received long and harsh treatment in the past. But when a US Navy crew was captured in Iranian waters last year, it was an embarrassment, but the sailors were released the next day.
NATO allies France and Germany have urged the White House to show restraint, warning that any escalation could further destabilize the region. The US and Iran are backing opposing forces there, but with a mutual enemy Islamic State, Iran says labeling its forces as terrorists would only aid the Jihadists.