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Iran drops ‘red line’ demand for US to delist IRGC as nuclear talks climax

‘If we are closer to a deal, that’s why,’ senior Biden official tells CNN, adding that Tehran also no longer demanding that US delist several firms tied to Revolutionary Guard

Members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, in the capital Tehran, on September 22, 2018. (Stringer/AFP)
Members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, in the capital Tehran, on September 22, 2018. (Stringer/AFP)

Iran has dropped its demand that the US remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations in exchange for Tehran returning to compliance with the nuclear agreement it signed with world powers in 2015.

After months of unconfirmed reports on the matter, the Biden administration revealed in May that it would not be heeding the Iranian demand in what was assumed to amount to a significant blow to the negotiations aimed at restoring the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

But a senior administration official told CNN on Friday that Iran has dropped the “red line” demand amid reports that the sides are nearing an agreement on a joint US-Iranian return to compliance with the JCPOA. A senior US official confirmed the report to The Times of Israel.

In 2018, former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the deal that traded sanctions relief for curbs on Iran’s nuclear program. He then instituted a “maximum pressure” sanctions regime targeting various Iranian sectors, leading Tehran to respond by expanding its nuclear program in violation of the JCPOA. US President Joe Biden entered office vowing to try and revive the deal and his administration has spent the past year-and-a-half in on-and-off indirect negotiations with Iran to achieve that goal.

While the sides had been pessimistic about prospects of a deal for months, progress has been reported over the past week.

The senior administration official speaking to CNN said that in its response to the draft nuclear deal agreement proposed by the European Union Iran did not include the IRGC delisting demand.

Enrique Mora, a leading European Union diplomat, second right, attends a meeting with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani, third left, in Tehran, Iran, March 27, 2022. (Iranian Foreign Ministry via AP)

“The current version of the text, and what they are demanding, drops it,” the official said. “So if we are closer to a deal, that’s why.”

“The President has been firm and consistent that he will not lift the terrorism designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps.”

The official also revealed that Iran had dropped other demands for the US delist to delist several companies with ties to the IRGC.

While the deal is now “closer than it was two weeks ago, the outcome remains uncertain as some gaps remain. President Biden will only approve a deal that meets our national security interests,” the official said.

Another administration official speaking to CNN was similarly cautious, explaining that progress may be slow moving forward but that there was indeed more momentum now than there was over the past year.

On July 26, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell submitted a proposal to Iran on returning to the nuclear deal, with a deadline for it to respond by this past Monday at midnight.

Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy speaks during a meeting with Iran’s Foreign Minister at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Iran’s capital Tehran on June 25, 2022. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

According to a Politico report citing a senior Western official, the Iranian response was received Monday evening Brussels time and focused on remaining questions related to sanctions and “guarantees around economic engagement.”

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency offered no details on the substance of its response, but suggested that Tehran still wouldn’t take the European Union-mediated proposal, despite warnings there would be no more negotiations.

Top Israeli officials have warned their counterparts in the US and Europe against the deal and called for the negotiators to give up on the talks.

National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata will head to Washington, DC, next week to conduct a series of meetings with US officials on the Iran nuclear program.

Israel believes Iran wishes to build a nuclear bomb, has revealed intelligence it says reveals the Iranian weapons program and has reportedly carried out sabotage operations within the Islamic Republic to delay the development of such a weapon.

Iran has denied any nefarious intentions and claims its program is designed for peaceful purposes, though it has recently been enriching uranium to levels that international leaders say have no civil use.

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