I was once conscripted into the Iranian armed forces. Here’s why the IRGC designation is punishing conscripts.

I was a 19-year-old high school graduate when I was ordered to report at 4 am to the headquarters of the Law Enforcement Department of the Draft in downtown Tehran. Iranian armed forces

I waited for two long hours until several officers arrived from the Artesh (regular military), Iranian Ground Forces, Air Force (IRIAF), Law Enforcement Forces (Prisons Branch), and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Navy (IRGC-N).

They were tasked with randomly picking conscripts. The officers began pointing at disheveled young men, commanding the frightened recruits to go stand in various lines associated with the military.

Draftees were then given paperwork telling them to show up at one of Tehran’s bus terminals two days later to be sent to boot camp. Iranian armed forces

I would end up being picked by the IRIAF, but the process was arbitrary. After completing basic training outside of Semnan Air Defense Base, I received some mediocre training as a member of the military police and mostly did office work.

Like other Iranian men who seek to come to the United States, I was asked by an immigration officer in 2004 about my prior military service.

The officer seemed relieved to hear that my twenty-one months of compulsory service was in the Artesh or regular armed forces.

In 2019, the US State Department designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, an unprecedented action against the military of a foreign state.

This effectively barred any Iranian who had served in the IRGC—conscript or otherwise—from entering the United States. Now, one of the final issues in the Iran nuclear negotiations in Vienna to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has been the Iranian demand that the IRGC be taken off the US list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs).

The legal provision can be found in Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 US Code § 1182.

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