image Photo: Reuters

US to leave IRGC on FTO list

Jerusalem leaders immediately responded by thanking Washington for refusing Tehran’s demand to de-list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the United States’ Foreign Terror Organization (FTO) blacklist.

By Erin Viner

US President Joe Biden finalized his decision to keep the IRGC on the terrorist registry, according to a senior Western official cited by the Politico. The Virginia-based publication also included reports from “another person familiar with the matter” who said that “Biden conveyed his decision during an April 24 phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett,” underscoring that “the decision was conveyed as absolutely final and the window for Iranian concessions had closed.”

Revealing that he had been “updated” on the decision during his last conversation with the American leader, a statement TV7 obtained from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Foreign Media Advisor confirmed that telephone communication had indeed taken place on 24 April.

“I commend the US administration, led by my friend President Joe Biden, on the decision to keep the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in their rightful place — on the Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list,” said Bennett last night, as news broke of the development.

President Biden is a true friend of Israel who is committed to its strength and security,” said the Israeli Premier, adding that, “This is the right, moral and correct decision by President Biden…. For which I thank him.”

Prime Minister Bennett went on to assert that, “over the past few months we [Israeli leaders] made our stance clear — the IRGC is the world’s largest terror organization, involved in planning and carrying out deadly acts of terror and destabilizing the Middle East.”

In a later message on social media in which he tagged his coalition partners Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Bennett hailed the US decision as “A very important achievement for Israel” that serves as “Proof that you can stand strong against Iranian terror.”

Lapid, who is also Alternate Premier, released his own statement voicing appreciation to the Biden administration.

“This is an important expression of the United States’ commitment to security and stability in the Middle East in general and to the strategic alliance between the United States and Israel in particular. Continuing to promote the Abraham Accords, deepening and expanding them, as well as the joint battle against terrorism and extremism are at the heart of our relationship,” he wrote.

The Israeli Foreign Minister added that he wanted to “personally also thank the Secretary of State, my friend Antony Blinken for dedicated and joint work on this important move.

The administration of former US President Donald Trump officially designated the IRGC as an FTO in 2019; one year after withdrawing from the the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – under which the Islamic Republic limited nuclear development in return for relief from sanctions – on allegations that Tehran was violating the deal. Washington accused the powerful Islamic Guards Corps, which controls a business empire as well as elite armed and intelligence forces, of actively engaging in a global terrorist campaign.

Delisting of the IRGC as an FTO is among many conditions Iran insists must be met before it will resume compliance with the JCPOA. Multiple sources stated that dropping the terrorist designation is one of the last, and most vexing, issues in wider indirect talks on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.

Israel, which Iranian officials have repeatedly threatened to annihilate, adamantly opposed to the move.

“The fight against terrorism is a global one, a shared mission of the entire world. We believe that the United States will not abandon its closest allies in exchange for empty promises from terrorists,” said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in a joint statement in March, stressing that the IRGC is a terrorist organization that has murdered thousands of people, including Americans, including “attacks on American civilians and American forces throughout the Middle East” over “past year,” as well as “behind plans to assassinate senior American government officials.”

They also pointed out that “the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are Hezbollah in Lebanon, they are (Palestinian) Islamic Jihad in Gaza, they are the Houthis in Yemen, they are the militias in Iraq” and responsible for “the murder of hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians” and destruction of Lebanon, in addition to having the “blood of thousands of Iranians and the crushed soul of the Iranian society” on its hands for serving as “an integral part of the brutal machine of oppression.”

“They kill Jews because they are Jews, Christians because they are Christians, and Muslims because they refuse to surrender to them,” said the Israeli Premier and Foreign Minister in the March statement.

Removal of the IRGC as an FTO “is an insult to the victims and would ignore documented reality supported by unequivocal evidence,” they added, expressing heavy doubt the group would honor any “promise not to harm Americans.”

Further underscoring Israel’s opposition to “Iran’s outrageous demand,” Bennett told his Cabinet at the time that the IRGC is “the largest and most murderous terrorist organization in the world” because “unlike ISIS or other organizations it is backed by a state.”

The force has fired missiles at peaceful countries, and launched UAVs at Israel and other countries

Emphasizing that “this is not just an Israeli problem” the Premier pointed to the firing of missiles and firing armed drones into many peaceful countries in addition to the Jewish State. “Allies of the United States in the region face this organization day in and day out,” he underscored, saying, “Even now, the IRGC terrorist organization is trying to murder certain Israelis and Americans around the world.”

The “determination to sign the nuclear deal with Iran at almost any cost – including saying that the world’s largest terrorist organization is not a terrorist organization” is “too high a price,” he stated.

“Even if this unfortunate decision is made, the State of Israel will continue to treat the IRGC as a terrorist organization, and will continue to act against it as we do against terrorist organizations. As usual, our future will be determined by our actions, not words,” vowed Prime Minister Bennett.

Israel has long threatened military action against Iran if the talks in Vienna fail to curb Tehran’s nuclear work.

According to prior statements from US State Department Spokesman Ned Price, “FTO designations play a critical role in the fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business.”