US military chief opposes terror delisting for Iran’s Quds Force

Removal of militia’s parent organization, the Revolutionary Guards, from list is reportedly being considered by Washington as part of reentering nuclear deal with Tehran

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 7, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 7, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

The Pentagon’s top general said Thursday said on Thursday he was opposed to the potential delisting of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force as a terror organization.

“In my personal opinion, I believe the IRGC Quds Force to be a terrorist organization, and I do not support them being delisted from the foreign terrorist organization list,” Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley told a congressional hearing.

It was not immediately clear why Milley referred only to the Quds Force, when the delisting of the entire IRGC is reportedly under consideration by Washington as part of a potential revival of its nuclear deal with Iran.

Tehran has said that taking the IRGC off the US terror list is a condition for restoring the 2015 agreement.

The IRGC, a hardline militia with close ties to Iran’s supreme leader, was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by former president Donald Trump’s administration after it withdrew in 2018 from the nuclear agreement officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Officially, the Guards are on the list because of Iran’s action supporting the Syrian government, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.

Israeli officials have openly expressed their concern over the removal of the mostly symbolic designation, including during US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Israel last week for the Negev Summit.

During a press conference on Sunday with the American top diplomat, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett referred to attacks by the Houthis in Saudi Arabia a week earlier, which he called “horrific,” adding that he was concerned over the possible removal of the IRGC from the US Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.

“I hope the US will hear concerned voices in the region, from Israel and others, on this issue,” he said.

Bennett also protested the notion of the IRGC being delisted during a cabinet meeting earlier Sunday.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on March 27, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

“We are still hoping and working toward preventing this from happening,” he said.

Blinken said during the press conference that “there is no daylight” between the US and Israel in the efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, as well as countering its threats to the region.

He added that the US will maintain that stance regardless of whether a new Iran nuclear deal is reached.

“Deal or no deal, we will continue to work together and with other partners to counter Iran’s destabilizing behavior in the region,” he said.

US special envoy Robert Malley said last week that Washington will maintain sanctions on the IRGC even if there is a deal to limit the country’s nuclear program.

“The IRGC will remain sanctioned under US law and our perception of the IRGC will remain,” Malley told a conference in Doha.

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)

The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action gave Iran relief from heavy sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program to prevent it from obtaining atomic weapons, a goal Tehran denies it seeks. In 2018, the Trump administration pulled the US out of the deal and reimposed sanctions. Iran has responded by dropping many of its commitments and ramping up enrichment and other elements of the program.

European-sponsored talks in Vienna are aiming to bring the US back into the deal and see Iran recommit to its terms in return for lifted sanctions.

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