Axios reported earlier this week citing Israeli officials and US sources that the Biden administration is considering the removal of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] from its terror blacklist, in return for a ‘public commitment from Tehran to de-escalation in the region.’
It is improbable that Tehran will give any such ‘public commitment’. But, a ‘private commitment’? Well, that may be possible. Indeed, the Axios report acknowledged that ‘The IRGC designation is not directly related to the nuclear deal, and any decision would take the form of a separate bilateral understanding between the US and Iran.’
No doubt, the lifting of the US sanctions is incompatible with the ban on the IRGC. The IRGC is deeply incorporated into the country’s economy and business. According to some estimates, up to 60% of Iran’s economy — including both state and private companies — is controlled by individuals and entities linked to the IRGC.
And the IRGC is well represented in the organs of the state. Executing a nuclear deal at Vienna while excluding the IRGC elites from plucking its low-hanging fruits is simply unrealistic. Arguably, even Americans wouldn’t want that to happen.
It is entirely conceivable that they too are eagerly looking forward to doing business with the IRGC top brass. After all, it’s best to do business with those who matter most in Tehran.
On balance, therefore, Biden administration will concede Iran’s demand to drop the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organisation. The crux of the matter is that the US is desperate to normalise with Iran since they also see potential to erode Iran’s friendly ties with Russia. The immediate goal of the Biden administration is to release Iran’s oil reserves. The amount of Iranian oil that may enter the market once sanctions are lifted is estimated at over two million barrels a day!
That said, even a US-Iran ‘bilateral understanding’ over the activities of the IRGC is not easy to achieve. The IRGC functions directly under the Supreme Leader’s supervision. Clearly, while from the American side, it is rather a formality requiring an executive order by the state department to legitimise IRGC, from the Iranian part, there is an ‘operational angle’ to it — namely, a commitment to end Iran’s expansion in the so-called Shiite Crescent of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
That involves the jettisoning of Quds Force’s ‘resistance’ and settling for peaceful co-existence with Israel. Does that look simple?
But then, when it comes to Iran, nothing is simple, because nothing is iron-cast. Didn’t Iran help in the US invasion of Afghanistan and the creation of a puppet government in Kabul? Resistance politics too was the child of difficult times when the country was besieged. With the lifting of sanctions, Iran is unbound for the first time after the 1979 revolution.
To be sure, there is a growing uneasiness among regional states — and, possibly, even in Moscow — about Iran’s future trajectory. The Raisi government now proclaims a ‘balanced foreign policy’ — ‘neither with the West nor the East.’ The framing of the paradigm in this suggests that Tehran anticipates the world community to queue up on the road to Tehran.