President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on March 16, 2022

President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on March 16, 2022

Biden Opposed To Removal Of IRGC From Terror List But Questions Remain


Author: Mardo Soghom

Opponents of a deal with Iran welcomed signals that President Joe Biden is opposed to delisting the Revolutionary Guard as a terror group, but questions linger.

One report suggested that the United States has refrained so far from sending a counterproposal to Iran regarding its demand that the Revolutionary Guard be removed from the US Foreign Terrorist Organization list as a pre-condition to reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, the JCPOA.

Talks in Vienna that have lasted one year were close to completion at the end of February as the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. But then Iran that was insisting all along for the removal of all US sanctions imposed since 2018, demanded the delisting of the IRGC. The US position in the talks is that it will remove major sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program, but not other sanctions that are related to terrorism or human rights violations.

Once the issue became public, opposition in the United States grew. Most Republicans and many Democrats openly put pressure on the White House not to delist the Guards, that are known to have caused mayhem in the Middle East by supporting a large network of militant groups, all the way to the Mediterranean shores and beyond.

The opposition made it less likely for the Biden team to agree to Iran’s demand, specially as Democrats face an uphill battle in the November elections.

Commander of Qods Force Esmail Ghaani in Iraq in February 2022

But a nuance in White House statements leads to the possibility that President Biden might be thinking to delist the IRGC but not its extraterritorial Qods (Quds) Force, which is Iran’s direct arm for building up anti-US, anti-Israeli, and anti-Saudi forces in the region.

An opinion piece by David Ignatius in the Washington Post on Friday mentioned that sanctioning the IRGC in 2019 was somewhat of a controversial issue, as some in the government and outside experts believed the multi-faceted entity was not only Iran’s main military force but also a major player in Iran’s economy and the public sector in general.

But opponents of giving a reprieve to the IRGC argue that separating it from the Qods force would be a wholly artificial distinction, just as trying to distinguish between the political and military wings of Hamas or Hezbollah. The US has traditionally rejected such a distinction.

Frequent Iranian threats directed at the United States and Israel are officially pronounced by the Revolutionary Guard, not just by the Qods Force, which speaks occasionally. Practically, the IRGC might even officially disband the Qods and create another outfit overnight that would carry out the same mission in the region.

The issue is Iran’s anti-West ideology kept alive by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who reinforces it in every public speech. Every Iranian government entity is supposed to fight against the archenemy, America, and Israel, according to the official dictum of the Islamic Republic.

Even at the height of improved ties in the wake of the JCPOA, Khamenei declared in 2016 that the Islamic Republic had no intention of cooperating on regional disagreements with main enemy the United States and “evil” Britain. He repeated the same message in November 2017, before former president Donald Trump had pulled out of the JCPOA and imposed sanctions.

The Biden administration, however, believes that the revival of the JCPOA is important to delay Iran’s nuclear breakout timeline, while opponents believe in continuing ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions until the regime is crippled or collapses.

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