Israel urges U.S. not to drop terror designation for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard

by mcardinal

 

Israel on Friday urged the United States not to remove Iran’s Revolutionary Guards from its foreign terrorist organization blacklist in exchange for “empty promises.”

The United States was considering such a move, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday, in return for Iranian assurances about reining in the elite force and comes amid efforts to revive a 2015 deal under which Iran limited its nuclear program in return for relief from sanctions.

Israel’s prime minister and foreign minister said in a joint statement they “believe that the United States will not abandon its closest allies in exchange for empty promises from terrorists”.

“The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is a terrorist organization that has murdered thousands of people, including Americans. We refuse to believe that the United States would remove its designation as a terrorist organization,” they said.

The IRGC is a powerful faction in Iran that controls a business empire as well as elite armed and intelligence forces that Washington accuses of carrying out a global terrorist campaign.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Biden administration was weighing whether to drop the terrorist designation “in return for some kind of commitment and/or steps by Iran, with respect to regional or other IRGC activities.”

The Biden administration’s consideration of such a tradeoff was first reported by Axios, citing Israeli and U.S. sources.

Asked about the possibility of removing the IRGC from the U.S. terrorism list on Wednesday, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price declined comment beyond saying that sanctions relief is at the heart of negotiations to revive the nuclear deal.

Jen Psaki, when asked about the issue on Friday, said that there was currently “no deal,” adding that she would not address the issue until a deal had been made, giving credence to the fact that this was something the Biden administration was considering.

Last week an Iranian official said the IRGC’s removal from the blacklist had been under discussion as far back as June but that the issue had become more complicated after last summer’s election of hardliner Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s president.

The Iranian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States had made clear “they cannot remove it without major concessions from Iran,” a stance he said had been rejected by Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani.

The IRGC’s political influence in Iran’s complex power structure has increased since the election of Raisi, who took office in August and whose government includes dozens of Revolutionary Guard commanders.

Multiple sources have said dropping the terrorist designation is one of the last, and most vexing, issues in wider indirect talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.

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