A U.S. decision to remove Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from its foreign terrorist organization blacklist would be a show of surrender to the world’s greatest state sponsor of terrorism. The one that sows chaos in the Middle East and the entire world, from Syria and Lebanon to Argentina.
And yes, it will also be a blow to Israel and America’s other allies in the region, who deal with terrorist plots daily, courtesy of the IRGC.
At the time of writing, Washington has not yet made a decision in this regard. However, the very fact that this discussion is taking place at Iran’s demand, raised by the regime moments before the suspension of nuclear talks, is already a form of insult to the United States.
Were it not for steps previously taken by the Biden administration, one could have suspected that the discussion on the matter was a tactical move by Washington, designed to provide them with an opportunity to respond negatively and assume an uncompromising stance. The aim would be to dull down the arrows of criticism pointed at them for surrendering to Tehran’s demands.
Unfortunately, however, it is difficult to seriously consider this possibility when one recalls the words of Russia’s main negotiator in Vienna regarding Iran’s achievements during the talks. Iran got much more than it expected, said Mikhail Ulyanov.
Moreover, the removal of the IRGC from the blacklist does not seem far-fetched when remembering that one of the first decisions the Biden administration made was removing the Houthis from the same list—only two days after they attacked Saudi Arabia. The United States has also refrained from adding them back to the list, despite the Houthis perpetrating more attacks, against the United Arab Emirates, as well.
In 2019, when then-President Donald Trump decided to designate the IRGC as a terrorist group, the White House explained that the move recognized the fact that Iran not only funds terrorism but actively participates in it, and uses it to advance its political goals through this organization.
Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was familiar with the organization’s misdeeds also due to his work as director of the CIA, said it best:
“For 40 years, the Islamic Republic’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has actively engaged in terrorism and created, supported, and directed other terrorist groups. The IRGC masquerades as a legitimate military organization, but none of us should be fooled. … From the moment it was founded, the IRGC’s mandate was to defend and export the regime’s revolution by whatever means possible. … The Trump administration is simply recognizing a basic reality. The IRGC will take its rightful place on the same list as terror groups its supports,” such as Hezbollah.
The IRGC was founded in 1979 by order of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as a counterweight to the Iranian military, which he did not trust because of the U.S, education its senior commanders had received and due to their closeness to the shah. It is organized and operates as a parallel military. It has ground forces, aerospace forces, a navy, an intelligence arm and a Basij mechanism that is used to maintain internal security and brutally oppress opponents of the regime. The IRGC also operates Iran’s ballistic missile arsenal.
The IRGC serves not only as the main means of ensuring the survival of the ayatollahs’ regime but as the primary means to achieving the regime’s ambitious vision: to establish Iranian hegemony in the region and to spread the Islamic revolution throughout the world.
The IRGC Quds Force is the main Iranian group that manages the military forces and the Shi’ite militias outside the country. Its work extends to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Gulf States, the Far East, Africa, South America and the Gaza Strip.
The U.S.-led assassination of Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani in January 2020 gave the world a window on the scope of the organization’s activities and the high regard in which it is held in Iran.
It has a special status in the Iranian regime, stemming from the combination of its military, economic and political power, and its special closeness to the supreme leader. Had Iran developed a nuclear weapon, it would most likely be kept and operated by the Quds Force.
Adding an organization to the terrorist list is not just a symbolic move, it is an essential means to denounce its legitimacy, limit contact with it and impose heavy economic sanctions on it.
As such, removing it from the list will pave the way for its economic growth, which it will use for military and political growth. And all of this will happen together with Iran receiving billions of dollars in sanctions relief, following the signing of a new nuclear agreement.
And what is Iran required to do in return? Commit to de-escalation! And the Iranians are still bargaining over the content and characteristics of this commitment. There is no need to delve deeper into the validity of such a promise.
To understand how much it is worth, taking a brief look at the symbol of the Revolutionary Guards and the Koran verse chosen as its motto will suffice: “Prepare against them whatever you are able of power.”
How is this seen within the context of the United States? It is very interesting to read this within the context of the tweet by Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who “cynically awaits” such an American decision. Individuals like him are familiar with the winds of domestic politics in Washington and understand that such a decision could cause an explosion on both sides of the political map.
In any event, anyone who believes that Iranians will achieve their nuclear aspirations can also believe that “relief and rescue will arise for the Jews from elsewhere” (Book of Esther, 4:14).
IDF Brig. Gen. (Res.) professor Jacob Nagel is a former national security adviser to Israel’s prime minister and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Meir Ben Shabbat is head of the Misgav Institute for Zionist Strategy & National Security in Jerusalem. He served as Israel’s national security advisor and head of the National Security Council between 2017 and 2021. Prior to that, for 25 years he held senior positions in the Israel Security Agency (Shabak).
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.