Iran Deal Impasse Caused Almost Solely by US Refusal to Remove IRGC From Terrorist List - Report
After eight rounds of talks in Vienna aimed at the restoration of the nuclear deal and the US return to it, on 11 March a halt was announced due to external factors. Among the reasons cited are the consequences of Russia's military operation in Ukraine and related sanctions issues.
The US refusal to satisfy Tehran's demand to exclude the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the list of foreign terrorist organisations has lead to a dead end in negotiations to restore the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear programme, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.
Since the Vienna talks ended abruptly last month, European delegates have reportedly been hopping between Washington and Tehran in an attempt to find common ground on both sides.
According to the outlet's source, "nothing mutually acceptable" has been suggested yet. The report noted that US President Biden must decide whether Washington would cede ground in any way, and "the president hasn't made a decision", according to the official.
"Politically, we know that it's an extremely difficult step to take", they said.
Meanwhile, US chief negotiator Robert Malley reportedly said at an earlier foreign policy event that the resolution for the stalemate was "not just around the corner, and not inevitable".
According to the report, the IRGC issue is the most contentious in the negotiations process, and the US is reportedly no longer considering a public Iranian statement disavowing regional aggression in exchange for the terror delisting.
The biggest barrier to eliminating the terrorist list designation for the White House is the anticipated reaction in Congress, where this issue has only reinforced bipartisan hostility to any further accord with Iran. According to the publication, Malley and Brett McGurk, the National Security Council's Middle East coordinator, have recently told US senators about the minor impact the delisting would have and the dangers of failing to reach an agreement at all.
Iran is one of four countries on the official US list of state sponsors of terrorism, and the IRGC and its officials are subject to a slew of other State and Treasury Department terrorism sanctions that still remain in effect. Iranian officials have publicly called for the sanctions against their elite forces to be lifted in order to reach any agreement with the US.
The growing concerns have reportedly started being noticed in Europe.
"We must conclude this negotiation. Much is at stake", European Union deputy foreign policy chief Enrique Mora tweeted last week.
The EU's role is in coordinating talks between Iran and the other signatories to the original 2015 agreement, which include the UK, France, Germany, Russia, and China.
Despite discussions primarily including Iran and the US, which withdrew from the accord in 2018, Tehran has refused to communicate directly with the Biden administration, which is just an indirect participant, speaking to Iran through the Europeans.
Over the years, many experts in the media have noted that for both Iran and the US, the IRGC designation has huge symbolic value. The listing was announced by former President Donald Trump in April 2019, as part of his "maximum pressure" sanctions campaign against Iran.
The listing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an elite branch of the Iranian military responsible for its regional activities in Iraq and elsewhere, remains the first time the US has done so with part of another government. Some experts initially cautioned at the time that it might escalate tensions in the region rather than defuse them.
In response to Washington's decision, the Iranian authorities added the Central Command (CENTCOM) of the US Armed Forces, whose area of operational responsibility includes the Middle East, South and Central Asia, to their own list of terrorist organisations.
The incumbent Biden administration has argued that Trump's withdrawal from the JCPOA has undermined US security by bringing Iran closer than ever to producing a nuclear weapon. The deal sharply limited Iran's nuclear activities and brought it under international monitoring in exchange for the lifting of US nuclear sanctions.
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