Bennett says US determined to sign nuclear deal at ‘any cost’

PM voices Israeli ire at ‘outrageous’ potential decision by Washington to delist IRGC as terror group under revived accord, says price will be ‘too high’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on March 20, 2022. (Maya Alleruzzo/Pool/AFP)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, on March 20, 2022. (Maya Alleruzzo/Pool/AFP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Sunday sounded the alarm over the potential US decision to remove Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from its list of terrorist groups as part of a revived nuclear deal with Tehran.

Reports in recent days have indicated that Iran is demanding the IRGC be delisted as a condition of its return to the 2015 accord. Former US president Donald Trump added the Guards to the blacklist in 2019, in what was seen as a largely symbolic move. Nonetheless, its potential removal has deeply discomfited Israeli leaders.

“We are very concerned about the United States’ intention to give in to Iran’s outrageous demand and remove the IRGC from the list of terrorist organizations,” Bennett said at a cabinet meeting.

“This is not just an Israeli problem,” he said. “Other countries – allies of the United States in the region – face this organization day in and day out… even now, the IRGC terrorist organization is trying to murder certain Israelis and Americans around the world.

“Unfortunately, there is still determination to sign the nuclear deal with Iran at almost any cost – including saying that the world’s largest terrorist organization is not a terrorist organization,” he added. “This is too high a price.”

Bennett said that regardless of the US’s decision, Israel will continue to treat the IRGC as a terror group and continue to act against it.

This file photo taken on September 22, 2018 shows members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) marching during the annual military parade which marks the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in the capital Tehran. (Stringer/AFP)

Bennett’s words echoed a joint statement that he issued on Friday with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid warning against the move.

“The Revolutionary Guards are a terrorist organization that has murdered thousands of people, including Americans. We have a hard time believing that the United States will remove it from the definition of a terrorist organization,” Bennett and Lapid said.

The two men said that the fight against terror was a global mission: “We believe that the United States will not abandon its closest allies in exchange for empty promises from terrorists.”

A State Department official told The Times of Israel on Saturday that the US was ready to make “difficult decisions” in order to revive the nuclear deal with Iran.

The official did not comment on the potential delisting of the IRGC, but did not deny it was a possibility.

Washington said Wednesday it was “close” to a deal with Iran on reviving the pact that saw Western powers provide sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program, the latest sign of advancement following prolonged deadlock.

Iran’s Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency Kazem Gharib Abadi, Political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran Abbas Araghchi, and Deputy Secretary-General and Political Director of the European External Action Service Enrique Mora stand in front of the ‘Grand Hotel Vienna’ where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, on June 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

Days after Russian demands seemed to jeopardize talks in Vienna over restoring the pact, multiple signals indicated that an accord may be within reach, including the release of two British Iranians Wednesday after years of detention in Iran, and word that outstanding issues have narrowed to just two.

The negotiations began last April between Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran, and Russia, with the US taking part indirectly.

Iran said Wednesday there were two remaining sticking points in Vienna, including an “economic guarantee” in case a future US administration repeats Trump’s abrogation.

Another source close to the talks said the other issue was the status of the IRGC.

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