(New York, N.Y.) — Speculation is increasing that the United States could agree to Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations as a condition of a nuclear agreement. Senior officials in Israel including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid are warning that Iran is “now asking to let the biggest terror organization on earth off the hook.” The IRGC is Iran’s main link to its terrorist proxies and is responsible for plotting or executing attacks on military personnel, diplomats, and civilians around the globe.
In October 2017, the U.S. government labeled the IRGC as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, citing support for its Quds Force as well as Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Taliban. This action was followed by an April 2019 decision by the U.S. Department of State to add the IRGC to its list of U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations. In so doing, the United States opened the possibility of levying additional sanctions on IRGC-related businesses, which reportedly dominate the Iranian economy. Outside its borders, Iran utilizes front companies to facilitate the flow of money to the IRGC, which then provides financing to Iran’s terror proxies.
In January 2020, a U.S. airstrike in Iraq killed Major General Qasem Soleimani, then the commander of IRGC-Quds Force. At the time of his death, Soleimani was accused by the United States of commanding militants responsible for the deaths of more than 500 U.S. service members in Iraq between 2005 and 2011. Soleimani was also reportedly linked by U.S. intelligence to a 2011 assassination attempt of Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States in Washington. Following Soleimani’s death, Iran appointed Ismail Ghaani as the new head of the Quds Force. However, Ghaani has allegedly been unable to exert the same influence over Iran’s proxies as Soleimani, creating opportunities for other parts of Iran’s proxy network—for example, Hezbollah—to assume larger roles in managing Iran-backed militant groups in the region.
To read the Counter Extremism Project (CEP)’s resource IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), please click here.
To read the CEP resource Ismail Ghaani, please click here.
To read the CEP resource Qasem Soleimani, please click here.