State Department: Biden 'shares the view that IRGC Quds Forces are terrorists'

These remarks come amid a halt in the negotiations as Iran demands that the US would delist the IRGC from its Foreign Terrorist Organizations list.  

 US PRESIDENT Joe Biden speaks on Tuesday at the White House about the situation in Russia and Ukraine. (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
US PRESIDENT Joe Biden speaks on Tuesday at the White House about the situation in Russia and Ukraine.
(photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

US President Joe Biden shares the view that members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force are terrorists, State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter said in a press briefing on Friday.

“The president shares the chairman’s view that IRGC Quds Forces are terrorists, and beyond that we aren’t going to comment on any of the topics in the nuclear talks,” Porter said. “But what I would say is out of the 107 Biden administration designations in relation to Iran, 86 have specifically targeted the IRGC-related persons as well as affiliates.”

Biden does not plan to concede on the IRGC’s terrorist designation, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius reported on Saturday. The administration is willing to continue nuclear talks with Iran, which has demanded the Guard Corps’ removal from the US Foreign Terrorist Organization List as part of an agreement. But the president “doesn’t want to budge” on this matter, which he views as separate from the nuclear file.

The Biden administration's position on the IRGC comes after Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s diplomatic adviser Shimrit Meir was in Washington last week, holding intensive meetings with US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and other officials on the Iranian threat. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also discussed the matter in his meetings with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken the previous week, and Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog has held meetings with officials and legislators in Washington.

Bennett and other Israeli leaders have been publicly voicing their strong opposition to delisting the IRGC for the past six weeks, along with top Emirati and Bahraini officials. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have also expressed their opposition to such a move.

 Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Hossein Salami smiles during a joint exercise called the 'Great Prophet 17' in the southwest of Iran (credit: SAEED SAJJADI/FARS NEWS/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)VIA REUTERS) Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Hossein Salami smiles during a joint exercise called the 'Great Prophet 17' in the southwest of Iran (credit: SAEED SAJJADI/FARS NEWS/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)VIA REUTERS)

Israel opposes a return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the goal of the indirect US-Iran nuclear talks over the past year. An American refusal to delist the IRGC could prevent that from happening. However, a senior Israeli official said removing the IRGC’s designation without the Iranian militia doing anything to deserve it is dangerous in of itself, and not just a “poison pill” for nuclear talks.

Porter’s remarks came in response to a question about Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley saying the IRGC should not be removed from the US FTO List.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) asked Milley and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin for their personal opinion on the matter during a hearing on the 2023 President’s Budget request before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Austin said he wouldn’t comment “on negotiations that are ongoing and speculate on what my advice to the president is going to be.”

However, Milley responded, “In my personal opinion, I believe the IRGC Quds Force to be a terror organization and I do not support them being delisted from the Foreign Terrorist Organization List.”

These remarks come amid a 20-day halt in the negotiations as Iran demands that the US delist the IRGC.

On Wednesday, Blinken said he was not “overly optimistic” at the prospects of bringing the nuclear agreement with Iran to conclusion. In an interview with MSNBC he said that, “Despite all the efforts we put into it, we’re not there and time is getting extremely short, but this is something that we will be talking to our European partners about this afternoon and on the next day.

“I continue to believe that it would be in the best interest of our country if we can [come] back into compliance with the deal if Iran would do the same,” he said, but “we are not there.”

Asked whether the IRGC is a terrorist organization, Blinken answered that “they are.”

MEANWHILE, a group of 11 Senate Republicans sent a letter to Biden urging the administration “to provide Israel with the military capabilities it needs to defend itself and to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear-weapons capability.

“Your administration appears intent on striking a new nuclear deal with Iran that will provide the regime with a pathway to nuclear weapons,” they wrote. “A nuclear-armed Iran would have major negative regional implications. It would put at risk the existence of the State of Israel and the governments of our Arab allies, destroy America’s position in the Middle East, and ultimately threaten the US homeland. A course correction is necessary.

“We therefore urge your administration to take immediate action to provide Israel with the military capabilities it needs to defend itself from Iran,” they said. Among the senators who signed the letter were Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), James Risch (R-Idaho), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Earlier this month, 12 Democrats in the House of Representatives wrote a letter to Biden saying they would vote against a return to the Iran nuclear deal if it were brought before Congress, guaranteeing a defeat in a vote. Nine Republicans signed the letter as well.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Saturday that Tehran would not give up its right to develop its nuclear industry, which he claimed is for peaceful purposes, and that all parties involved in talks to revive the 2015 nuclear accord should respect this.

“For more than the 100th time, our message from Tehran to Vienna is that we will not back off from the Iranian people’s nuclear rights... not even an iota,” state media quoted Raisi as saying in a speech marking Iran’s Nuclear Technology Day.

During the Nuclear Day presentation, Iran displayed the production of enriched uranium metal in “the first sample of silicide fuel disks to replace Tehran Research fuel,” according to Iranian news agency IRNA.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian spoke with his counterpart from the UAE Abdullah bin Zayed on Saturday, saying that Israel threatens the entire Middle East and “must be prevented from gaining a foothold in the region.”

Reuters contributed to this report.