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Biden Should Not Consider Delisting Iran's Terrorist Revolutionary Guards

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File

In the same month the U.S. Department of Justice revealed an Iranian plot to murder former US National Security Adviser John Bolton and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and an Islamist fanatic stabbed Salman Rushdie in New York state, incredibly, the Biden administration is considering removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) from their foreign terrorists’ blacklist. According to the DOJ, it was an IRGC officer, Shahram Poursafi, who had allegedly been offered a bounty of $300,000 for the Bolton, Pompeo killings. Poursafi is still at large. It was believed the intended assassinations were in retaliation for President Trump’s elimination of the IRGC’s key terrorist chief, General Qassem Soleimani.


A U.S. government spokesman claimed that the delisting of the IRGC would involve an assurance from the Iranian regime that they would rein in the activities of the Revolutionary Guards! Perhaps President Biden hoped that the IRGC would stop supporting Bashar al-Assad’s bloody civil war in Syria. Perhaps he thought they might cease backing the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the brutal Shi’ia Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq. Or maybe he felt they might withdraw their support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, or they could agree to end their drone and limpet mine attacks on international shipping in the Strait of Hormuz. Biden’s history of dealing with terrorists is not impressive, particularly after he handed control of Afghanistan back to the Taliban. Delisting the IRGC would be a fatal error.

Donald Trump listed the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization in 2019. It was the first time Washington had designated part of another sovereign government as a terrorist group. The theocratic regime has demanded their delisting ever since, as an integral condition of restoring the stalled Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini created the IRGC as his own version of the Gestapo, to spread their revolutionary policy of violence and terror at home and beyond Iran’s borders. General Soleimani played a pivotal role in this process. His poster still features on walls and hoardings across the Middle East.


Following President Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA nuclear deal in 2018 and the re-imposition of tough sanctions, millions of Iranians took to the streets, protesting about the venal corruption of the ruling mullahs and their wanton spending on conflict and terror. In a blind panic, the current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei instructed Soleimani to mobilize his IRGC thugs to launch a murderous crackdown on the peaceful protesters, during which an estimated 1,500 were killed, more than 4,000 were wounded, and over 12,000 were arrested. Soleimani ordered a systematic shoot-to-kill policy that saw masked snipers on the roofs of government buildings, indiscriminately shooting unarmed, young protesters in the head and chest. IRGC goons and security agents then scoured the country’s hospitals, dragging the wounded from their beds. Qassem Soleimani was one of the most vicious terrorist criminals in Iran’s history. He had the blood of countless Americans on his hands. Pretending to aid the West in their war against ISIS, Soleimani oversaw the genocidal massacre of thousands of Sunnis in the ancient Iraqi cities of Fallujah, Ramadi, and Mosul, leaving smoking ruins in his wake. His elimination by Trump was a major setback for the IRGC and the theocratic regime and a major breakthrough for liberty and justice.

Answerable only to the supreme leader, the IRGC controls around 70 percent of the Iranian economy. They pay no tax. Venal corruption has enriched their commanders, who drive expensive cars and live in lavish villas, while ordinary Iranians starve. They groom, train, and finance Iran’s proxies in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories causing bloodshed and conflict wherever they operate. Removing the IRGC and Quds Force from the terrorist blacklist would simply encourage their global threats. It is already evident that mercenaries from the IRGC have been deployed in Ukraine, to fight alongside the Russian invaders. That knowledge alone should be enough to thwart their delisting, but Joe Biden’s appeasers seem determined to ignore every warning and press ahead with futile dialogue with the mullahs.


The IRGC's political influence in Iran's complex power structure has increased since the sham election of the hardline president Ebrahim Raisi, who took office in August last year and whose government includes dozens of revolutionary guard commanders. Raisi has insisted that the nuclear deal cannot be reinstated without the IRGC’s removal from the terrorist blacklist. A renewal of the JCPOA agreement would allow Iran to sell its oil and gas abroad again, which is an enticing temptation to appeasers of the theocratic regime in Europe, who have been starved of energy by the war in Ukraine. But any renewal of the nuclear deal would require the signatures of America, the EU, France, Germany, the UK, China, and Russia. It seems astonishing that the west could countenance any treaty that required the approval of Vladimir Putin and the Russians.

The JCPOA was signed by Obama in 2015 and was designed to last for only 10 years. Even if it is reinstated, it will only have three years to run. The deal was fatally flawed from the outset, preventing International Atomic Energy Authority inspectors from entering any IRGC or military compound, where, of course, almost all of the mullahs’ clandestine nuclear weapons development was underway. The mullahs have boasted that they have enriched uranium to within a hair’s breadth of weapons-grade purity. They will stop at nothing to build a nuclear bomb and the JCPOA is merely a piece of diversionary political theatre. Joe Biden should not fall for this, nor should he be duped into delisting the IRGC. The mullahs should be held to account for their crimes against humanity and human rights abuses and all attempts at appeasement should end. It is time the West backed the people of Iran in their effort to remove this pariah regime from power.


By Struan Stevenson is the Coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change (CiC). He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14).  Struan is also Chair of the ‘In Search of Justice’ (ISJ) committee on the protection of political freedoms in Iran. He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).


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