US eases sanctions on IRGC as tensions with Iran persist

The State Department announced modifications on Wednesday to restrictions it had imposed earlier on dealings with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan24) – The State Department announced modifications on Wednesday to restrictions it had imposed earlier on dealings with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

On April 8, the US announced it was naming the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). That was the first time that Washington designated an agency of a foreign government as an FTO. The designation had the effect of criminalizing any action that constituted material support to the organization

Related Article: US designates IRGC as terrorist organization, subjecting sanctions violators to criminal prosecution

Because of the IRGC’s extensive involvement in Iran’s economy, often through subsidiaries or front companies, individuals could unknowingly provide it, or its proxies, such support, or they might hold an official position, in which doing so was part of their duties.

Such considerations were particularly relevant to Iraq and Lebanon, where Tehran, and even the IRGC, have a significant presence.

The new regulations, as issued by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and promulgated in the Federal Register, exempt foreign governments and businesses from the new measures, as the Associated Press first reported.

One new regulation explains that sanctions will not be applied to any foreign government or government agency, while the second states that sanctions will not be applied to any business “solely based on its provision of material support to any foreign government sub-entity that has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization.”

These State Department modifications of the IRGC designation followed two days after the Department announced it was ending all waivers for the import of Iranian oil, effective May 2.

Related Article: US to end waivers for Iranian oil imports

Following that announcement, international oil prices first rose, but fell back on Wednesday, as Reuters reported. Part of the markets’ relative calm is due to US oil production, which has risen by two million barrels per day over the past year and has made the US the world’s biggest oil producer now.

US actions against Tehran since May 2018, when the Trump administration left the Iranian nuclear deal, have caused its oil exports to drop by over 1.5 million barrels per day and have cost the regime some $10 billion in oil revenue, according to State Department figures.

On Wednesday, Iranian officials denounced the newest US measures against Iran’s oil exports. In Tehran, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, claimed that the US attempt to cut off those exports would prove ineffectual.

“Their efforts will end nowhere. We can export as much of our oil as we need and want,” Khamenei said, as he warned that US "enmity will not go unanswered.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, also speaking in Tehran, echoed Khamenei’s defiance. “The US is not ready to hold negotiations at all,” he said. “We have to make the US regret its decision, for which we have no choice but to resist.”

At the same time, Rouhani expressed a willingness to negotiate under improbable circumstances: if the US “lifts all restrictions, apologizes for all wrongdoings, and practices mutual respect.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif was in New York, where he addressed the Asia Society and spoke in similar terms.

Zarif, who attended high school and college in the US, demonstrated his familiarity with American ways, as he spoke, with occasional humor, as well as menace, in his words.

Zarif referred to a “B-Team”—usually understood as a group of second-stringers—but in this case, a play on the letter “B”: US National Security Adviser, John Bolton; Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu; UAE Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Zayed; and Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

President Donald Trump doesn’t want war with Iran, Zarif said, but he “believes putting pressure, bullying will bring us to the negotiating table” for some “ideal deal” that “he has in mind.”

But the B Team, Zarif suggested, apparently trying to sow mistrust between Trump and the other figures, has a “plot” that would cost trillions of dollars. Their idea, he claimed, is “to push Iran into taking action” and then “use” that to start a war.

Zarif also suggested the US might try to stop Iran from exporting oil through the Strait of Hormuz—although no US official has even hinted at such a step. Freedom of navigation is a cornerstone of US national security policy.

Nonetheless, proposing that Washington might do just that, Zarif warned, “It should be prepared for the consequences.”

Editing by Nadia Riva