Iran Nuclear Talks Update 4/12

  • The Washington Post reported on Friday that the United States plans to reject the Iranian demand that the United States lift its designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) in order to renew the 2015 nuclear agreement. Despite this report, which cited a senior Biden administration official, the administration has not officially ruled out lifting the FTO designation.
    • On April 12, a reporter from The Wall Street Journal tweeted that the U.S. has ruled out lifting the FTO unconditionally and accepting the political cost, writing, “Iran needs to accept conditions for lifting of FTO or it’s not a price the administration at the top level is prepared to pay.”
    • On April 6, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the IRGC is a terrorist organization, but declined to say whether the FTO designation would remain.
    • Appearing last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “I believe the IRGC Quds Force to be a terrorist organization, and I do not support them being de-listed.”
      • While the State Department designated the IRGC in its entirety as an FTO in 2019, the Quds Force – the expeditionary military arm of the IRGC – has only been sanctioned as a terrorist group by the Treasury Department, and not specifically designated as an FTO.
      • State Department deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter said President Biden shares the view of Gen. Milley “that Iran’s IRGC Quds Force are terrorists.”
  • U.S. officials continue to be pessimistic about the prospects of reaching a nuclear deal.
    • On April 8, Porter saidan agreement (with Iran) is neither imminent nor certain at this time.”
    • On April 6, Blinken said, “I’m not overly optimistic at the prospects of actually getting [the nuclear] agreement to conclusion.”
  • Iranian officials, meanwhile, have repeatedly stated that they will stand by their red lines in negotiations, including removing terrorism sanctions on the IRGC.
    • Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reportedly urged Iranian officials not to tie future plans to the results of the Vienna negotiations, saying on April 12, “things [are] going well in Vienna Talks. Our negotiating team … has so far resisted excessive demands of other side. U.S. broke promises on JCPOA and is now stuck in a stalemate.”
    • Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on April 10, “if Biden has intentions to lift sanctions & return to nuclear deal, he should issue an executive order to show his goodwill instead of applying sanctions on natural & legal persons in Iran.”
    • 250 of 290 members of Iran’s parliament signed a letter saying “the United States should give legal guarantees, approved by its … Congress, that it will not exit the pact again.”
      • The members added that “sanctions lifted under the reinstated pact should not be reimposed and Iran should not be hit by new sanctions.”
  • Bipartisan congressional opposition to a prospective nuclear deal has continued to grow in the past week, as the number of House and Senate Democrats who have spoken out against the deal has reached at least twenty.
    • Eighteen House Democrats led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) released a joint statement on Wednesday, voicing strong concerns about the ongoing talks.
    • Within the last two weeks, Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-NY)and Ritchie Torres (D-NY) have separately expressed concerns over reports about the deal – and specifically the IRGC FTO – to Jewish Insider.
    • Senate Republicans led by Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) submitted a letter to the White House urging President Biden to “publicly and categorically reject any discussion of delisting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.”
    • Seventy former national security officials also signed a letter urging the administration not to lift the IRGC’s designation.
  • Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog said on April 11, “we’ll build our capabilities to counter Iran & we’ll decide in due time what action to take.”
    • That same day, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, “if there’s not a deal we’ll have to move to Plan B. We must create an intelligence coalition against Iran.”
    • Eleven Senate Republicans led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) submitted a letter to the White House calling on President Biden to provide Israel with the military capabilities it needs to defend itself from a nuclear-armed Iran. The letter was supported by JINSA.

JINSA’s Previous Iran Nuclear Talks Updates