Blinken: Iran must make changes before U.S. lifts IRGC terror designation

Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on Tuesday that lifting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) would require Iran to take unspecified “steps,” but also argued that, “as a practical matter, the designation does not really gain [the U.S.] much.”

The designation is reportedly the key sticking point in nuclear talks between the U.S., Iran and other international partners, which have once again stalled over the disagreement.

Recent reports indicate that the talks, which are taking place in Vienna, are close to collapsing.

“The only way I could see [the FTO] being lifted is if Iran takes steps necessary to justify the lifting of that designation.

So it knows what it would have to do in order to see that happen,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during testimony over the State Department’s 2023 budget request. “It would require Iran to take certain actions and to sustain them.”

But, Blinken continued, “If [Iran] purported to do something and then didn’t… [FTO designation] can always be reimposed.”

Pointing to the previous opposition to the designation from top officials in the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations, Blinken argued that the designation may do more harm than good.

“In the judgment of the [George W. Bush and Obama] administrations and senior leadership in President [Donald] Trump’s administration, the gain was minimal and the pain was potentially great,” Blinken continued.

“And as a practical matter, the designation does not really gain you much because there are myriad other sanctions on the IRGC.”

The main impact of the FTO, beyond other sanctions measures, is a travel ban on IRGC members, including conscripts, even though “the people who are the real bad guys have no intention of traveling here anyway,” Blinken argued.

He added that the Biden administration has issued 86 additional sanctions against the IRGC, which would remain in place regardless of a nuclear deal or delisting.

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