WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Joe Biden has reportedly made final his decision not to remove Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps from a list of designated terrorists subject to U.S. sanctions, putting the Iran nuclear deal in jeopardy.
Politico reported Tuesday that Biden informed Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of his decision in an April 24 phone call.
Biden wants to reenter the 2015 Iran nuclear deal but says that Iran’s demand that the IRGC be removed from the list is not on the table. The IRGC regularly calls for Israel’s destruction, and it backs terrorist groups and insurgents around the world with money, training and guidance.
“President Biden is a true friend of Israel who is committed to its strength and security,” Bennett said in a statement after Politico reported the story, citing a senior Western official. “This is the right, moral and correct decision by President Biden, who updated me on this decision during our last conversation. For this I thank him.”
Progressives have pressed Biden to remove the designation, which they say was imposed by former President Donald Trump in 2019 to frustrate any U.S. return to the deal.
The Obama administration, which Biden served as vice president, brokered the sanctions relief for nuclear rollback deal, in 2015. Trump quit in 2018, and in 2019 Iran stopped abiding by some of the deal’s provisions and is now believed to be closer than ever to weaponizing fissile material.
Biden campaigned on reentering the deal, but is believed to be sensitive to U.S. veterans who saw hundreds of troops killed in attacks organized and backed by the IRGC.
Robert Malley, the chief U.S. negotiator in talks in Vienna aiming at getting the United States back into the deal, testified Wednesday to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and said the deal remained the best means of keeping Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, but that reentry seemed less than likely, in part because of Iran’s insistence on delisting the IRGC.
“The prospects for a deal are at best tenuous at this point,” he said.
A number of senators of both parties were skeptical of reentering the deal, saying that it does not appear that it will adequately stem its nuclear development and other malign activities. Some Democrats spoke up for the deal.
Separately on Wednesday, The New York Times reported that Israel has acknowledged to the United States that it is responsible for the assassination of an IRGC colonel in Tehran over the weekend. The Times cited an intelligence official; it did not say of which country.
IRGC leaders swore revenge at Sayad Khodayee’s funeral on Tuesday.