U.S. President Joe Biden has made his final decision to keep the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the Foreign Terrorist Organizations list – a move widely welcomed in Israel.
According to Politico, Biden notified Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett about his decision during their phone conversation on April 24. An unnamed official told Politico that the decision was conveyed as absolutely final, and that the window for Iranian concessions had closed.
“I welcome the decision by U.S. administration led by my friend President Joe Biden, to leave the Iranian [Islamic] Revolutionary Guard (Corps) in their proper place – the list of terrorist organizations. This is the correct decision," Bennett said on Tuesday after the decision was publicized.
“In the last months we made clear of our position – the Revolutionary Guard Corps are the world’s biggest terror organization, involved in facilitating and carrying out murderous terror acts and destabilizing the Middle East,” Bennett added. “This is a right, morally just decision on behalf of President Biden, of which he informed me during our last conversation.”
Israeli media outlets added that the designation of the IRGC had been discussed last month between administration officials and Bennett’s former advisor, Shimrit Meir, who was sent to Washington. Meir, who has since resigned, met with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and conveyed the emerging American position to Bennett. The Israeli premier then reportedly informed the Mossad.
Ynet reported that the U.S. asked Israel to keep the decision quiet while nuclear talks were ongoing. The Israeli outlet hailed the president’s decision as a “diplomatic achievement for Prime Minister Bennett.”
America has been engaged in indirect talks with Iran and other world powers to revive the nuclear deal – officially the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – from 2015. Negotiations have been ongoing for over a year now and have recently come to a stalemate following Iran’s demand to de-list the IRGC – the main sticking point for Iran. Iran had demanded that the U.S. lift the terror label before Tehran returns to compliance with the nuclear deal. But the U.S. had refused, unless Tehran offered some security-related concessions beyond the nuclear agreement.
The IRGC was added to the State Department’s blacklist under former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2019. The move was part of the “maximum pressure campaign” and was not directly related to the original JCPOA.
Politico quoted a U.S. official familiar with the matter, saying that “the U.S. position has been that unless Iran agrees to take certain steps to assuage security concerns beyond the JCPOA, Washington will not lift the terror designation, which itself is beyond the JCPOA.”
The same U.S. official added: “Iran’s refusal to take such [security] steps, combined with heightened political concerns in Congress and beyond regarding the terror designation, mean that the Biden administration is highly unlikely at this point to drop the designation in the context of the JCPOA talks.”
On one hand, Biden’s decision could be interpreted as a death sentence for efforts to revive the nuclear deal. Such a scenario begs the question: What’s next? Perhaps the answer lies with the recent back-to-back conversations the U.S. held with both Israeli and Saudi officials.
One the other hand, this may also be part of a negotiating technique, throwing the ball in Tehran’s court.
Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.