US State Department to Keep Iran’s IRGC Quds Force on Terrorist List

© AP Photo / Vahid SalemiIran's Revolutionary Guard (IRGC)
Iran's Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.04.2022
After reports Washington was weighing removing Iran’s Quds Force from its list of designated terrorist organizations, the US State Department indicated on Friday that the elite unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
"The president shares the chairman's view that IRGC Quds forces are terrorists," US State Department spokesperson Jalina Porter told reporters on Friday. Earlier this week, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told a congressional hearing the same thing.
"In my personal opinion, I believe the IRGC Quds Force to be a terrorist organization, and I do not support them being delisted from the foreign terrorist organization list," Milley told the House Armed Services Committee.
Named after the Arabic name for Jerusalem, Al-Quds, the Quds Force is a highly secretive branch of the IRGC. Estimates of its size vary widely, with the UK’s International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank putting its strength at 5,000 personnel and the Royal United Services Institute estimating nearly four times that size, at 17,000-20,000 men.
The Quds Force is accused by Washington of orchestrating anti-American resistance operations and attacks against US forces and installations around the globe, but especially in nearby Iraq, which the US invaded in 2003 in the hopes of turning Baghdad into a friendly government.
CC BY 4.0 / Unknown author / Qasem Soleimani Saying PrayerQasem Soleimani Saying Prayer in Imam Khomeini Hossainiah in Tehran
Qasem Soleimani Saying Prayer in Imam Khomeini Hossainiah in Tehran - Sputnik International, 1920, 08.04.2022
Qasem Soleimani Saying Prayer in Imam Khomeini Hossainiah in Tehran
In January 2020, a US Reaper drone was used to assassinate Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani outside Baghdad International Airport. Then-US President Donald Trump claimed Soleimani was responsible for masterminding several attacks on US forces and was planning several attacks on US embassies. However, it never produced evidence to support those claims, and the Iraqi government, which had narrowly survived the Daesh onslaught three years earlier with the help of the IRGC, was infuriated by the breach of their sovereignty and demanded that all US forces leave the country. Trump responded by threatening to freeze Iraq’s account at the New York Federal Reserve Bank.
The US State Department has considered the Quds Force a terrorist organization since 2007 and added the entire IRGC to the list in 2019, despite the objections of the CIA and Pentagon, which noted the designation had never been applied to state entities before.
It was rumored that the removal of either entity from the terrorist list might be part of the final negotiations to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a 2015 deal that lifted US economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for it accepting strict limitations on its nuclear program. The Trump administration unilaterally pulled out of the deal in 2018, claiming without evidence that Iran was secretly violating it and pursuing a nuclear weapon, so Iran began reducing its commitments under the deal and producing higher-quality uranium. When US President Joe Biden took office last year, he began talks to revive the deal, which is now on the cusp of an agreement.

Last week, the Washington Post reported that the US refusal is the biggest sticking point in the talks.

“If there is a pause in the Vienna talks, it is because of the American side's extravagance,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs acts with power and logic in order to achieve the highest interests of the nation and to observe the red lines. We will never go overboard with America. If the White House behaves realistically, an agreement is achievable.”
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