US official: Iran’s IRGC won’t come off terror list, even if it torpedoes nuke deal

Unnamed official tells Washington Post that even if it’s a dealbreaker for revived agreement, Washington won’t delist Guard Corps; report says matter could be addressed separately

In this September 21, 2016, file photo, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard troops march in a military parade in Tehran, Iran. ​(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)
In this September 21, 2016, file photo, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard troops march in a military parade in Tehran, Iran. ​(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

The Biden administration will not remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the US terror list even though it may be a dealbreaker for Tehran signing a revived nuclear deal, an unnamed US official has told The Washington Post.

The newspaper said that Washington does not plan to accept Tehran’s demand to remove the IRGC from the US Foreign Terrorist Organizations list as a condition for restoring the 2015 agreement, even if it meant putting the signing of the deal “in jeopardy.”

“The onus is on Iran as to whether we have a nuclear deal. The [US] president will stick to core principles. The Iranians know our views,” the unnamed official told the newspaper.

The newspaper noted that earlier this week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed his belief that the IRGC was a terror group and said that he was “not overly optimistic” that a nuclear deal would be signed.

The report also noted that Washington is not walking away from negotiations, and that there was hope a compromise could still be found to allow the agreement to be signed.

The newspaper implied that while the US appeared not to want to delist the IRGC as part of a potential nuclear deal, the issue could be addressed as a separate matter if Tehran showed willingness to stop its involvement in terror activities which have so far killed thousands around the world, including American citizens.

In this photo released on January 15, 2021, by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, missiles are launched in a drill in Iran. (Iranian Revolutionary Guard/Sepahnews via AP)

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.

The Pentagon’s top general said Thursday he was opposed to the potential delisting.

“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.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on September 28, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

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.

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

During a press conference 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,” reaffirming his concerns over the possible removal of the IRGC from the US terror list.

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. Israel has said publicly it is against the signing of the revived deal.

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)

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.

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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