Gulf States led DC lobby blitz targeting Iran military wing as terrorists

Their ongoing influence is effective even today, as Biden remains reluctant to lift IRGC terror listing to make way for JCPOA renewal.

In 2019, the Trump administration took the controversial step of listing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an ideological branch of the Iranian military, as a foreign terrorist organization. The designation, an apparent poison pill to block further diplomacy with Iran, has become a major obstacle in negotiations to revive the nuclear deal with Iran, which Trump abrogated in 2018.

Though the domestic political pressure on the Biden administration against delisting has been widely discussed — with fears of Republicans campaigning against the move and pro-Israel forces roundly opposing it — few have noted the effect and breadth of the campaign to place and keep the IRGC on the terror rolls.

Documents, including rafts of public disclosure filings and a hacked email from a Washington diplomat, reveal a highly active foreign influence operation over the past five years to blanket Washington with messages supporting confrontation with Iran and targeting the IRGC with sanctions and inclusion on the terrorist list.

Since at least 2015, a variety of communications consultants, law firms, and lobbyists working for foreign governments — primarily Iranian regional rivals Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain — produced a steady stream of tweets, talking points, press releases, and reports warning about the dangers of the IRGC and supporting the foreign terrorist organization, or FTO, designation.

“All you need to know about what a politicized cudgel the FTO list has become is seeing the UAE and Saudi Arabia (gulf)— responsible for some of the most heinous terror against civilians in Yemen — lobbying to get the IRGC on the FTO and keep them listed,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the advocacy group Democracy for the Arab World Now. “We should not be allowing foreign government lobbyists to buy influence on important national security policies, like the FTO designation of a government we want to reach a critical nuclear deal with.” gulf

In the email chain, Otaiba responded within minutes: “No idea where they are on decision making, but I have made the suggestion to several people.”

The UAE Embassy declined to comment on the purported email, which Responsible Statecraft and The Intercept were unable to separately authenticate. Otaiba never specified in the exchange who he “made the suggestion to.”

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