Friday, December 1, 2023

Sources say US hardens position on designation of IRGC

The White House in recent days has hardened its position on whether to remove Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) from a terror list, two US sources with direct knowledge of the issue and two Israeli officials told Axios.

An agreement to restore the 2015 nuclear deal is nearly complete, but Iran’s demand that President Joe Biden reverse former President Donald Trump’s decision to designate the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization is one of the last remaining sticking points.

In recent weeks, US envoy for Iran Rob Malley negotiated the IRGC point indirectly with the Iranians through EU political director Enrique Mora.

One of the proposals raised by the US in the negotiations was that the Biden administration would remove the IRGC from the FTO blacklist in return for a public commitment from Iran to de-escalation in the region.

The Iranians didn’t agree to the US demand and suggested giving the US a private side letter instead, two US sources and one Israeli official told Axios.

As time passed, the White House became increasingly concerned about the domestic political fallout of some kind of a deal with Iran regarding the IRGC and started cooling down to the idea, the two US sources added.

Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Bob Menendez publicly criticized the possibility of removing the IRGC from the terror blacklist.

Republicans have also expressed outrage over the possible move. Three former senior national security officials in the Trump administration called the move “dangerous capitulation” in a joint statement issued on Tuesday.

A White House National Security Council spokesperson stated the portrayal of the indirect talks with the Iranians regarding the IRGC wasn’t accurate.

“As we have said, the president will re-enter JCPOA if it’s in the best interest of America’s national security and fully returns Iran to its nuclear commitments. There remain a number of outstanding gaps in these negotiations. The onus on closing these gaps rests with Iran,” the NSC spokesperson added.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told his Iraqi counterpart that Iran has offered some initiatives to the US through the EU coordinator regarding the highly important remaining issues and stressed the onus is now on the US side to show good faith, the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced in a statement.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price hinted on Monday that the US is waiting until after the two-week Nowruz holiday to determine whether Iran is willing to move on its demands.

Price on Tuesday said the Biden administration has long discussed “alternatives” with France, Germany, the UK, Israel and Persian Gulf countries to prepare for a scenario where there is no return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

“We will have a good sense of all of this before long,” he added.

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