TEHRAN, Iran – The U.S. move to blacklist Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group will be a matter of pride for the organization said a senior Iranian cleric in the official weekly sermon on Friday.
Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, who does not hold a government post but once a month delivers the official Friday prayer sermon, told thousands of worshippers at Tehran University in a speech broadcast on radio that the designation showed that the Guards were doing something right.
"I believe the U.S. decision for including the Guards in the list of terrorist organizations is an honor and a golden card in their file," he said. "Whenever your enemy is saying something bad about an organization, it shows that the organization has been effective," he added.
The cleric accused foreign-based Iranian dissidents of pushing for the group to be classified as terrorist and warned the U.S. that confronting the Guard would lead it into a quagmire.
On Tuesday, an unnamed official in the Bush administration said the U.S. planned to list the Guards as terrorist group in order to squeeze Iran.
The move was seen as an effort to pressure businesses the corps is thought to control, from construction to oil sectors. It is the first time the U.S. has put a foreign government's military agency on the list, which includes the Al Qaeda network and the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
The estimated 200,000-strong Revolutionary Guards is an elite force separate from Iran's regular military and has its own ground, naval and air units.