U.S. negotiators are reportedly considering removing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) as part of ongoing negotiations to restart the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
A source close to the ongoing negotiations told Reuters that officials within the Biden administration are considering dropping the IRGC’s terrorist designation in exchange for commitments from Iran to reign in the group. Reuters’ source said the Biden administration hadn’t decided on what would be acceptable commitments from Iran in exchange for such a move.
When asked by reporters during press briefings on Wednesday and Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki would not confirm or deny that such a decision was under consideration.
The Trump administration added the IRGC to the State Department’s FTO list in April 2019. The administration cited IRGC support for terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East, including ones that have targeted U.S. citizens. The Trump administration assessed IRGC supported proxies have killed 603 U.S. service members in the region from 2003 to 2011. In September 2018, a U.S. federal court also found Iran and the IRGC liable for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing which killed 19 Americans.
The report from Reuters is not the first time allegations have been raised that the Biden administration is dropping terror designations against the IRGC.
Former U.S. State Department official Gabriel Noronha, who worked on Iran issues during the Trump-era, published a lengthy Twitter thread earlier this month, claiming to reveal complaints from former State Department colleagues involved in Iran negotiations. Noronha said those former colleagues complained lead U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley had offered an unconditional removal of the IRGC’s terrorism designation and the lifting of terrorism-related sanctions targeting several specific IRGC leaders. Some of those IRGC figures are tied to deadly attacks on Americans spanning decades.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price was asked about the alleged offers to drop the IRGC’s terrorism-related designations and sanctions
“It’s not something I can speak to,” Price said.
Price was then asked about the IRGC forces launching missiles that landed near a U.S. consulate in Erbil, Iraq on Saturday.
“Does the IRGC’s missile launches near an American consulate change that calculation? And with that in mind, does the administration still think it would be appropriate for [lifting the IRGC’s FTO designation] to even be considered?” a reporter asked.
“What it underscores for us is the fact that Iran poses a threat to our allies, to our partners, in some cases to the United States, across a range of realms.” Price replied. “The most urgent challenge we would face is a nuclear-armed Iran or an Iran that was on the very precipice of obtaining a nuclear weapon. Every challenge that we face and would face from Iran – whether that is its support for proxies, its support for terrorist groups, its ballistic missile program – all of those challenges would become all the more difficult to confront if Iran were in the possession of a nuclear weapon.”