US officials have said Washington is still committed to reviving the JCPOA based on a return to mutual compliance, but have recently further tightened sanctions on Iran.
United States President Joe Biden asserted he is committed to keeping Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the infamous US Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) list, even if it leads to the demise of the nuclear deal with Tehran.
This came in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 that aired on Wednesday during his first visit to the occupying state as part of a Middle East tour.
“Are you committed to keep the IRGC on the ‘foreign terrorist organisation’ list, even if that means that it kills the deal?,” Biden was asked.
“Yes,” the US president said.
Biden’s remarks come amid a fresh round of indirect talks between Tehran and Washington to revive the nuclear accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in Qatar.
Tehran has expressed a positive view over the Doha talks, with experts describing it as a “focused negotiation.” On the other hand, US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley viewed it as “a little bit of a wasted occasion.”
In his interview with the Israeli television, Biden also pledged to prohibit Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon despite Tehran denying the allegations of pursuing one.
In the first week of July, the Biden administration announced a fresh round of Iran-related sanctions amid continuing diplomatic efforts to restore the nuclear deal.
The sanctions targeted a network of Chinese, Emirati among other companies that Washington claimed of “helping to deliver and sell Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products to East Asia,” Reuters reported.
In response to a question on whether he would use force against Iran to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the US president said: “If that was the last resort, yes.”
In a declaration signed between Israel and the United states on Thursday, the allies also pledged to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
The declaration pointed out Iran, Israel’s regional nemesis, as well as a number of militant groups in the region.
Washington “stresses that integral to this pledge is the commitment never to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and that it is prepared to use all elements of its national power to ensure that outcome,” the declaration said.
“The United States further affirms the commitment to work together with other partners to confront Iran’s aggression and destabilising activities, whether advanced directly or through proxies and terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” it added.
Washington unilaterally abandoned the JCPOA in May 2018 under the former Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran. In turn, the US restored crippling sanctions, prompting Tehran to abandon restrictions on its nuclear programme about a year later.
In the exclusive interview, Biden also said former US President Donald Trump made a “gigantic mistake” withdrawing Washington from the 2015 nuclear deal and claimed Iran is “closer” now to possessing a nuclear weapon.
Ahead of his four-day trip to Israel then Saudi Arabia, Biden said: “The only thing worse than the Iran that exists now is Iran with nuclear weapons”.
Iran and the US have been engaging in numerous rounds of indirect negotiations since April 2021, with a deal appeared to have been within reach earlier this year. However Washington’s rejection to remove Iran’s paramilitary branch from its ‘terror’ list has been argued to be a major obstacle in the effort to salvage the milestone accord.
The IRGC was blacklisted in 2019 by the Trump administration, the first time a military branch of a foreign government was enlisted in the US Department of State’s FTO.
The significance of this request, for Iran, lies in IRGC’s tie to certain economic entities within the Islamic Republic. A failure to delist the Guards, will impact the Iranian economy, said former Iranian Foreign Minister Sayyid Kamal Kharrazi.
Khatam-Al Anbiya Construction Headquarters is IRGC’s major engineering arm and one of the Islamic Republic’s largest contractors for the country’s major industrial and developmental projects.
Iran has requested the lifting of sanctions on the engineering entity and a few others, according to a correspondent in Tehran.
During a panel discussion at the Doha Forum 2022, Kharrazi added that the IRGC is a symbol of the country’s national security, though rights groups have accused it of violations in other parts of the region, such as Syria and Yemen.