Qasem Soleimani with Iranian fighters in Aleppo Syria circa 2017

Qasem Soleimani with Iranian fighters in Aleppo Syria circa 2017

Commander Says Iran Won’t Drop Soleimani's Revenge For Nuclear Deal


A senior Iranian military commander has insisted Tehran will not for the sake of renewing the 2015 nuclear deal drop the case of revenge for Qasem Soleimani.

Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) extra-territorial Quds Force, was killed in Baghdad along with nine others in 2020 by a drone strike ordered by President Donald Trump.

"They constantly send messages saying they will offer rewards and remove certain sanctions if we give up seeking revenge for Soleimani," Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, commander of IRGC naval forces, said Wednesday. "But this is wishful thinking. The Supreme Leader [Ali Khamenei] stresses taking revenge, and the IRGC commander has said that revenge is inevitable. We will, however, decide the time and place for it.”

With Iran’s talks with world powers over renewing the 2015 nuclear deal on hold, the strike on Soleimani has become tangled up in arguments over Trump’s 2019 listing of the IRGC as a ‘foreign terrorist organization’ (FTO).

US state department spokesman Ned Price said Monday the US was not prepared to remove the IRGC from its list as a condition for renewing the 2015 deal, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) as it was "outside the purview" of the 2015 agreement. Price argued that if the US were to delist the IRGC then Iran should be prepared to negotiate other issues which are important for Washington, presumably Iran's aggressive regional policies and support for militant groups, which are also outside the JCPOA purview.

Admiral Alireza Tangsiri, commander of IRGC navy

The pause in Vienna talks between Iran and world powers to revive the JCPOA has given opportunity for opponents of the agreement in both Washington and Tehran to express dissent, including within the US Democrat Party.

Iran is reportedly insisting on removing the IRGC from the FTO list, which is the only example of a sovereign state’s armed forces to be included. But in a letter to President Biden dated April 14, 900 ‘Gold Star’ families urged Biden not to lift the designation, which they said would widen the IRGC's access to resources and "fuel increased terror activities.”

A Gold Star Family is the immediate family member(s) of a fallen US service member who died while serving in a time of conflict.

Risky decision

In a statement released Thursday 40 former government officials and leading non-proliferation experts said that not restoring the JCPOA would “increase the danger that Iran would become a threshold nuclear-weapon state.” While not addressing the FTO listing, the statement noted that “some in Congress are threatening to block…steps necessary to bring Iran back under the nuclear limits set by the JCPOA.”

Some in Iran have blamed Biden for the impasse in the nuclear talks for being "weak" in the face of domestic opposition and failing to risk a political decision over delisting the IRGC.

The Qods Force − which takes its name from al-Quds, the Arabic name for Jerusalem − under Soleimani became deeply involved in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. Trump claimed that the general, who was Iran’s main operative in the Middle East was killed because he was planning attacks on US troops but never offered evidence.

Days before Soleimani’s killing, Iraqi Shiite militia supported by Iran attacked the US embassy in Baghdad after repeated rocket attacks on US targets in 2019.

On April 8 the State Department said Bidenconsidered the Qods Force a ‘terrorist’ group, which some pundits took as a suggestion that the US might keep the Qods Force on the FTO list while removing the IRGC. With or without the FTO designation, the IRGC is subject to a range of US sanctions.

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