Too good to check, or too dumb to pursue? Maybe both. The Jerusalem Post reports today that Joe Biden’s chances of reviving the Iran deal are “slim to none” after the White House decided against removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the State Department’s terror-org sanctions list:
Multiple diplomatic sources in Jerusalem shared the assessment that the US is close to moving on from the revival of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in light of Iran’s demand that Washington removes the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) and its refusal to take reciprocal steps.
The chances of the US and Iran returning to the JCPOA are “slim to none,” a senior diplomatic source said, adding that the longer time goes on without a deal, the smaller the likelihood gets.
According to the J-Post, the Iranians threw in the demand for delisting the IRGC after an agreement in principle had been reached on the nuclear issues. That’s not a surprise, given the consistent lack of good faith demonstrated by the mullahcracy in Tehran, but perhaps the outcome will be:
Iran began to demand the IRGC’s de-listing in February, which the Biden administration viewed as a non-nuclear issue. As such, it offered various concessions Iran could make in return that are not related to its nuclear program, such as agreeing not to attack American officials. However, Iran has refused all such offers.
Note well that this timeline matches up well with the disclosures leaked by the State Department about where Joe Biden’s JCPOA II was heading. Former State career official Gabriel Noronha began frantically passing along disclosures at the beginning of March — just after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine — warning that the negotiations had been almost entirely run by Putin’s envoy Mikhail Ulyanov. The deal would have lifted sanctions on nearly every Iranian entity, not just the IRGC. Biden was supposed to also lift sanctions on outright terrorists such as Mohsen Rezaei, who took part in the infamous 1994 terror attack on Jews in Argentina, as well as Ali Akbar Velayati, who now advises Ali Khamenei but helped plan the AMIA bombing in 1994.
Not long after that, Ulyanov bragged to reporters in English that he’d gotten a much better deal for Iran than they could have gotten, thanks in part to Russian and Chinese pressure on Biden:
Shocking video: This is the lead Russian negotiator for the Iran nuclear talks, Mikhail Ulyanov.
He's bragging about how Russia, Iran, and China teamed up to deliver huge wins for Iran's nuclear program in Vienna negotiations. pic.twitter.com/oiTOgfh99i
— POLARIS (@polarisnatsec) March 6, 2022
All of this sounds as though the Biden administration might not have objected to Iran’s last-minute addition of the IRGC issue to the deal. In fact, it might not have been all that last-minute. The Biden administration never did answer for the IRGC delisting issue over the seven weeks since it became a known issue, not even when its Democratic allies on Capitol Hill began distancing themselves from the idea. Joe Manchin’s public blast of Biden on IRGC delisting may have been the last straw for Biden’s dream of appeasing the Iranian mullahs, and the diplomatic twist here sounds a lot like a cover story to keep Biden from being embarrassed.
The White House is clearly spinning this as Biden’s objection nearly two months after the IRGC issue got exposed:
A US official told journalist Laura Rozen that “Israel not a key factor,” rather the White House and Department of Defense opposed removing IRGC from the FTO list.
Biden might have finally stumbled into the right decision, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, that doesn’t preclude later efforts to do it all over again.