US affirms IRGC in its entirety is a terrorist organization

Press Briefing by State Department Spokesman Ned Price. April 7, 2021. (Photo: United States Department of State Website)
Press Briefing by State Department Spokesman Ned Price. April 7, 2021. (Photo: United States Department of State Website)

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – Asked to clarify the US position on Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), State Department Spokesperson Ned Price explained that the Biden administration views the IRGC in its entirety, not just its Qods Force (IRGC-QF), as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). 

The IRGC's status has emerged as the biggest obstacle to renewing the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, which was concluded under the Barack Obama administration and abrogated by Obama's successor, Donald Trump.

Trump also added the IRGC to Washington's FTO list, and Tehran is now demanding that it be removed from that list as a condition for concluding a new version of the JCPOA (the Iran nuclear deal).

'FTO Designation Covers Both' IRGC and IRGC-QF

But it seems that the Biden administration is not prepared to accommodate the Iranian demand.

"My understanding is that the FTO designation covers" both the IRGC and the Qods Force, Price said in a press briefing on Wednesday. He had been asked directly, "Does the State Department differentiate between the IRGC and the Qods Force?" 

The question arose following remarks by Gen. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last Thursday. In that hearing, on the Defense Department budget, Milley was asked if he considered the IRGC to be a terrorist organization. He replied, "In my personal opinion, I believe the IRGC-Qods Force to be a terrorist organization, and I do not support them being delisted from the foreign terrorist organization [list]."

Such is the mistrust surrounding what seems to be an unrelenting push by the Biden administration, along with its European partners, to restore the JCPOA that some analysts interpreted Milley's remarks to indicate that the US would differentiate between the IRGC and the IRGC-QF to satisfy Iran's demand for taking the IRGC off the FTO list.

However, Price's comments seemed to suggest that this interpretation was wrong.

This issue arose last week following Milley's remarks. Deputy State Department Spokesperson Jalina Porter was asked about them on Friday. She replied, "The President shares the chairman's view that IRGC Qods Forces are terrorists, and beyond that we aren't going to comment on any of the topics in the nuclear talks."

Read More: Uncertainty grows over JCPOA revival as US refuses to delist IRGC, even as compromise may yet be found

The usually well-informed Washington Post columnist, David Ignatius, wrote later on Friday in support of what Porter had said.

"A senior administration official told me that President Biden doesn't intend to concede on the terrorist designation, even though this may be a deal-breaker," Ignatius stated. However, he did add, "European countries have urged the United States to find a compromise formula that will save the deal, whose basic provisions have been negotiated in Vienna over the past year."

So far, there has been no mention, at least publicly, of any compromise formula. Rather in two successive weeks, it has been repeatedly said that the IRGC is a terrorist organization.

Blinken Highlights Iranian Terrorist Plot in New York

On Tuesday, the State Department released its annual human rights report. Secretary of State Antony Blinken provided opening remarks introducing that report. Prominent in his comments was a critique of Iran on a crucial issue.

"Governments are growing more brazen in reaching across borders to threaten and attack critics," Blinken stated.

"To give just a few examples, over the last year alone, Iranian intelligence agents plotted to kidnap an Iranian American journalist from her home in Brooklyn," he continued, "while the Assad regime threatened Syrians who were cooperating with efforts in Germany's courts to prosecute former officials for atrocities" and "the Lukashenko regime in Belarus forcibly diverted an international commercial flight to arrest an independent journalist."

Blinken thus put Iran, and its close ally, Syria, in the same category as Belarus, Russia's closest ally in Europe.

Iranian Extraterritorial Aggression

The State Department's Human Rights report provides more detail on Blinken's charge. As it explains, a New York court indicted four Iranian intelligence officials "for conspiracies related to kidnapping, sanctions violations, bank and wire fraud, and money laundering." Those activities grew out of a plot that dates back to at least June 2020 to kidnap Masih Alinejad, an Iranian-American journalist who works for the VOA's Persian service. 

The report also describes Iran's kidnapping of the German-Iranian journalist Jamshid Sharmahd in Dubai. And in 2019, a France-based Iranian activist, Ruhollah Zam, was kidnapped in Iraq and then taken to Iran, where he was executed in 2020.

The report also details Iran's "conflict-related abuses." They include recruiting fighters, mainly through the IRGC, to support the Syrian regime. Those recruited include "Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani Shia fighters, as well as Syrians." 

In Iraq, the report explains, Tehran "supported pro-Iran militias," including the "terrorist organization Kata'ib Hizballah," which has been involved in "summary executions, forces disappearances, and other human rights abuses in Iraq."