Implications of delisting Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps from the terrorist list – OpEd
By Ghazal Vaisi*
Nuclear talks between Iran and the West have stalled as the United States continues to deny Iran’s request to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the list of foreign terrorist organizations (OTF).
US Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who voiced his concerns in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and former Iranian parliamentarian Faezeh Hashemi, who infuriated hardliners in Tehran for opposed to delisting from the IRGC, spoke out in opposition. Hashemi said, “I don’t think removing the IRGC from the list does any good for the Iranian nation,” and that the IRGC should “retreat to its bases.”
The widely held belief among Iranian dissidents is that sanctions relief will provide Iran with the necessary funds to bolster the IRGC’s missile and drone programs and boost the morale of the Islamic Republic’s leadership while dealing a slap in the face to all their victims, from Syria to Tehran.
If the IRGC is removed, its pre-Soleimani reputation will be restored among its militias, and Iran will never rein in its missile and drone program, which has been the main driver of its influence in the Middle East. . Moreover, the lifting of sanctions will reinforce their system of internal oppression, demoralizing Iranian dissidents.
The Islamic Republic has long sought to exclude any questions about its funding of proxies and weapons development programs from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement. Masoud Jazayeri, former Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, said: “The Islamic Republic’s missile and defense power development plan has nothing to do with the JCPOA.
On the contrary, Iran’s missiles and defense power are essential elements in ensuring an effective JCPOA. As Senator Manchin told Secretary Blinken, “We should not reward Iran with sanctions relief until it demonstrates verifiable efforts to curb…its nuclear ambitions, terrorist financing and development of dual-use weapons”.
In the six months since the deal was implemented in 2015, Iran received sanctions relief from more than $100 billion in previously frozen monetary assets overseas. In addition to injecting funds into the Islamic Republic, the 2015 deal offered Iran access to global trade in exchange for agreeing to restrictions on its atomic program.
The affair, however, did not last long. Since Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the deal in 2018, Iran has exceeded the enriched uranium limit of 3.67% fissile purity. Fissile purity is currently 60%, about 15 times the limit set by the JCPOA in 2015, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
An enrichment of around 90% is required to build an atomic bomb. Due to the bipartisan nature of US foreign policy, Iran is now very close to acquiring nuclear weapons.
While Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon currently appears to be the most potent threat, and while possession of a nuclear weapon would trigger an arms race with regional rivals and lead to further destabilization of the Middle East, failing to address Iran’s drone and missile program and proxy support for wars emerging from negotiations will undermine any proposed peaceful resolution in the Middle East.
The Islamic Republic poses a threat even without nuclear weapons. Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei called Iran’s regional strength and nuclear capabilities Iran’s “weapons of power” in his speech to the Assembly of Experts in March 2022. Khamenei’s views are strictly followed by his network of IRGC generals as a guideline.
Since 2015, and amid the talks, the IRGC has bolstered its missile and drone program and continued to build a network of militias across the Middle East.
Restrictions on Iran’s missile program in the first agreement were weak and non-binding. As a result, Iran’s missile arsenal now dominates its regional adversaries in size and diversity, with some munitions capable of striking as far away as Egypt and Eastern Europe.
Iran has also embraced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as a key pillar of its military strategy. “For the first time since the Korean War, we are operating without total air superiority,” warned former CENTCOM commander General Kenneth Mckenzie.
Iran’s IRGC shares its capabilities with its associated militias across the Middle East. Unresolved conflicts between Iran and its neighboring countries are responsible for the collapse of several states in the region (Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen) torn apart by civil war and an aggravation of the humanitarian crisis.
In addition to supporting rebel militias, the IRGC directly enabled Syrian dictator Bashar-al-Assad to massacre his people and permanently displace 13.5 million Syrians from their homes.
The IRGC also arms and finances groups such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad Union, operating from the Gaza Strip. In recent developments, the Israeli military announced that Iran had launched drones from its military bases – carrying small arms, heading towards the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – avoiding its usual strategy of using proxies to target neighboring countries.
In addition, Houthi rebels backed by Iran have claimed responsibility for hundreds of attacks inside Saudi borders. As a result, Israel and several Arab countries are set to create an unprecedented “joint defense system” to deter the threat of Iranian drones and missiles on their doorstep. This nascent alliance is proof of the imminent threat that Iran can pose, even without a nuclear weapon.
Critics of the IRGC believe that any sanctions relief will be earmarked for military spending and strengthening Iran’s IRGC-linked state-run intelligence services. Not only will Iranians not feel the benefits of the sanction relief, but the funds released will further exacerbate human rights problems in Iran for dissidents.
Moreover, it would demoralize Iranians and all the victims of the IRGC’s offensive policy, from Yemen to Syria to Tehran.
Iran’s nuclear program remains a threat to international security, and an agreement must be reached between Iran and the P5+1 countries, but not before there is comprehensive coverage of all issues of conflict between the Iran, the United States and their allies in the region. – if not, the deal will bring the Islamic Republic financial relief and a morale boost, as it did in 2015.
Removing Iran’s IRGC from the terrorist list will send the wrong message to policy makers in Tehran, encouraging Iran and its associated militias to continue their misdeeds in the region. Before granting the Islamic Republic the financial assistance it desperately needs, the United States must use its influence to bring Iran to the negotiating table and settle all the points of conflict that are fueling the chaos in the Middle East. East.
*The author is an Iranian-born international affairs analyst who focuses on the evolution of authoritarianism in the modern world. His writings have appeared in the Middle East Institute, Independent Farsiand Iranian International.