Nahal Toosi reports that Biden decided against removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the list of foreign terrorist organizations at least a month ago:
President Joe Biden has finalized his decision to keep Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on a terrorist blacklist, according to a senior Western official, further complicating international efforts to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Another person familiar with the matter said Biden conveyed his decision during an April 24 phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, adding that the decision was conveyed as absolutely final and that the window for Iranian concessions had closed.
Removing the designation was likely the last chance that Biden had to salvage the nuclear deal. Top US officials, including Secretary of State Blinken, confirmed that removing the designation would have no meaningful practical effect on the IRGC’s financing or operations, but the president chose to keep it in place knowing that it could torpedo the negotiations to revive the agreement. Maybe the Iranian government will drop its demand in the end, but right now I wouldn’t give you two cents for the JCPOA’s chances of surviving beyond this year. Trump added the IRGC to the list for the express purpose of making US reentry into the agreement more difficult, and Biden ran right into the trap. The writing was on the wall several weeks ago. Now we have confirmation that Biden’s diplomacy has been weighed in the balances and found wanting.
Biden’s decision to leave the entire IRGC on the list is the wrong one, but more than that it is a remarkably stupid decision because the designation has served no purpose. This is not a case of weighing between different priorities and considering the tradeoffs between them. If the US gained something from keeping the IRGC on the list, there might at least be something to debate, but the administration itself doesn’t believe that the designation matters. As Peter Beinart pointed out earlier this month, “By its own admission, the Biden administration is risking the Iran nuclear deal for nothing.” Biden is jeopardizing what should be a major policy success for the sake of preserving an empty gesture of hostility.
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.