March 23, 2022
Republican lawmakers and former top Trump-era officials are sounding the alarm on a potential move by the Biden administration to remove Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps from the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list as part of efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.
Two sources familiar with ongoing deliberations told Fox News last week that the administration is considering removing the regime’s powerful military faction from the list. Axios had first reported the consideration, which it said could come in return for a commitment from Iran to deescalate in the region.
Tehran has been demanding such a concession for months as talks continue in Vienna on how to bring Iran and the U.S. back into the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The sources told Fox that such a move is under consideration but no decision has been made. Officials have noted that there’d still be other sanctions in place on the IRGC if the FTO designation was lifted.
A senior administration official told Fox last week: “We don’t have a deal yet, and we’re not going to discuss anonymous speculation. We’re consulting with allies and partners, including Israel as we negotiate.”
The official said that President Biden “will make a decision on whether to re-enter the deal based on what’s in the best interest of American security.”
“And let’s be clear – President [Donald] Trump’s approach has been a clear failure and made the U.S., Israel and our other partners in the region less safe. Not only has Iran’s nuclear program advanced dramatically, but their behavior in the region and beyond has gotten more aggressive,” the official said.
The Trump administration designated the IRGC in 2019, with Trump saying the IRGC “actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft.”
“The IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign,” Trump said.
As a result, the prospect is drawing concern not only from Israel but also from former Trump officials and Republican lawmakers. More than 80 Republicans wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to express opposition “to any move to legitimize the IRGC’s reckless, destabilizing, and antisemitic actions throughout the Middle East.”
“The IRGC continues to actively participate in acts of terror and destabilizing actions in the region—particularly against one of our closest allies, Israel. It is also a chief supporter and enabler of other FTOs and insurgent groups in the region. These organizations include, but are not limited to: Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Houthi insurgency,” they wrote. “The IRGC’s actions have led to decades of instability and conflict across the Middle East and the group is responsible for countless deaths, including more than 600 U.S. troops during the occupation of Iraq.”
The Republicans, led by Rep. Scott Franklin, R-Fla., argued that delisting the IRGC would give them greater freedom and bolster their financial resources.
Meanwhile, in a statement to Axios, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former national security adviser Robert O’Brien and former director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe said that removing the IRGC would be a “dangerous capitulation and a denial of the basic reality that the IRGC’s core mission is to spread terror.”
“Removing the IRGC from the list of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) would be a colossal mistake,” Nathan Sales, a former State Department counterterrorism coordinator who was part of the effort to list the IRGC in 2019, told Fox News earlier this week.
“The IRGC has perpetrated terrorism around the world and has the blood of hundreds of Americans on its hands,” Sales said. “Delisting the group would make it harder to prosecute its operatives and supporters, and harder to keep them from entering our country.”
The IRGC listing is one of a number of concerns Republicans have voiced about the potential deal. Included among those concerns is that it will take pressure of the regime in Tehran, and that it could end up helping Russia dodge sanctions on its invasion of Ukraine.
“A deal that provides $90-$130 billion in sanctions relief, relieves sanctions against Iran’s worst terror and human rights offenders, and delists the IRGC does not support our national security interests,” Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said in a statement. “Worse, this deal could enable Putin to continue to build out his nuclear arsenal and benefit financially in the midst of his assault against Ukraine. The administration should walk away.”
Meanwhile, a senior Republican Senate aide told Fox News that senators are concerned that the Biden team will allow Russia to play a key role in the new nuclear deal by importing and storing Iran’s excess enriched uranium.