In exchange for agreeing to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, Tehran is demanding that the U.S. cease to consider its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the U.S. has no intention of doing so, yet reports have also circulated that Foggy Bottom is seeking a workaround of some sort. Elliott Abrams and Behnam Ben Taleblu argue that any such compromise “would be pure strategic folly.”
To begin with, the IRGC was created four decades ago as a parallel military force to the national army. . . . In the ensuing decades, the IRGC has become a powerful, and perhaps the most powerful, player inside the Islamic Republic. . . . The closest analogy is to the Soviet KGB at the height of its powers.
The IRGC has engaged in or supported acts of terrorism, kidnapping, or regional destabilization across multiple continents throughout its existence and has been at the forefront of the Islamic Republic’s efforts to “export” its revolution. The IRGC is the chief military unit responsible for Iran’s foreign operations, with branches like the Quds Force that train and equip proxies to target U.S. military personnel, interests, and partners. During the Iraq War (2003-2011) for example, Iran, through the IRGC and its proxies, was assessed as being complicit in over 600 U.S. fatalities and thousands of injuries. This means that a reported one in six U.S. deaths during the Iraq war can be traced to the Quds Force, directly or indirectly.
The FTO designation is . . . America’s most powerful counterterrorism authority and has been singled out by Tehran for that reason. Iran is unlikely to have jeopardized a nuclear deal that stands to free an estimated 130 billion dollars of frozen assets over the revocation of a designation that some chalk up to being mere “symbolism.” . . . Removing the IRGC from the FTO list will endanger American lives.