Step over Osama and your rag tag mountain dwelling Taleban, there are new terrorists on the list,
The United States has decided to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country’s 125,000-strong elite military branch, as a “specially designated global terrorist,” according to U.S. officials, a move that allows Washington to target the group’s business operations and finances.
The Bush administration has chosen to move against the Revolutionary Guard Corps because of what U.S. officials have described as its growing involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as its support for extremists throughout the Middle East, the sources said.
However, regardless of whether the political timing of this move is bad, it does pose an important question. As the article notes,
“They are heavily involved in everything from pharmaceuticals to telecommunications and pipelines — even the new Imam Khomeini Airport and a great deal of smuggling,” said Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Many of the front companies engaged in procuring nuclear technology are owned and run by the Revolutionary Guards. They’re developing along the lines of the Chinese military, which is involved in many business enterprises. It’s a huge business conglomeration.”
While a state military organization may not technically be a terrorist group, it does seem to engage in similar activities. Yet, where does one draw the line between covert operations and terrorism, or between a state run organization with tacit government approval and a non-governmental terrorist gorups? The definition of what constitutes a terrorist organization is becoming blurrier by the minute. As John Robb pointed out in Brave New War and Moises Naim in Illicit, many organizations often freely move between illegal activities and in addition, some switch between legal and illegal. Mexican smugglers may smuggle Mexican immigrants, drugs, weapons, terrorists, prostitutes and more. They may specialize in only transportation freely changing between products. Other cases, such as the Madrid bombings or FARC, show that terrorism is often financed by illegal activity such as the sale of narcotics. International criminal networks are often difficult to separate into individual “industries.”
If the definition of terrorism is broadened and bent for political purposes to include only “their terrorism” then we will be undermining the term itself by spreading it too thin to be credible. Should such a list be created for international organized crime, for example? One thing is for certain, the future is one of hybrids.