Contrary to the optimistic forecasts about the completion of the nuclear talks in Vienna between Tehran, its European counterparts, and the U.S., the negotiations have apparently run into a snag because the Iranian regime insists on the U.S. removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) from the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO).
It goes without saying that the IRGC qualifies as an FTO both based on Law and facts. Delisting it would be quite counterproductive and detrimental to the campaign against terrorism, which has emerged as the most serious challenge to regional and global stability. Moreover, it would send an obvious message of weakness and cave into the demands of the most active state sponsor of terrorism.
The new administration in the United States and European leaders have made all possible efforts to wrap up the negotiations to revive the highly flawed Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). While Tehran was the party constantly breaching its commitments under the terms of the deal, our leaders tabled such concessions to the regime that, as the Spectator reported in January, “Iranians had to rub their eyes to believe it.”
The Iranian regime considered these concessions as the U.S. opening position. It pushed for more, sadly prompting the U.S. to reportedly consider assenting to Iran’s demand for removing IRGC from the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list in exchange for the regime to “public commitment…to de-escalate in the region” Asking the mullahs in Tehran to de-escalate regional tensions is like demanding an arsonist to put out the arson. The Iranian regime and its Revolutionary Guards are the sources of all mayhem in the Middle East and beyond.
IRGC trains and funds terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and the Houthis. The IRGC Quds force wreaks havoc in the region by attacking other countries. The IRGC’s ballistic missiles and its massive UAV program have no peaceful purposes. This terrorist entity’s saber-rattling of its weapons of mass destruction and its ominous presence in the region calls on Western leaders to expunge their minds of the misguided notion that terrorism could be stopped through negotiations.
The IRGC’s terrorism is not limited to the Middle East. A senior Tehran diplomat based in Vienna, Assadollah Assadi and his accomplices were arrested in 2018 while attempting to bomb the Iranian opposition’s rally in France. They were prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced from 15 to 20 years in prison for plotting to murder thousands of innocent participants in that conference.
Many of my American and European colleagues attended that rally. It is outrageous to see the entity that sent our would-be assassins to be removed from the FTO list. What message would that send to other terrorist groups? It would indeed be a humiliating debacle in our fight against terrorism. It should be noted that removing the IRGC from the FTO list does not mean that the organization is removed from other blacklists for its malign activities. But taking such an action would only embolden Tehran to ask for more and that it can continue its terrorism with impunity.
The ayatollahs in Iran are vulnerable. Facing a volatile society, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei appointed Ebrahim Raisi as president. Raisi, a mass murderer and a key perpetrator of the 1988 genocide of tens of thousands of Iranian political prisoners, is Khamenei’s bogeyman to intimidate and terrorize the Iranian people and dissuade them from venting their pent-up anger and frustrations for four decades of suppression, corruption, mismanagement, and incompetence, that has devastated their livelihoods.
In addition to more clampdown at home, evident in the dramatic rise in the number of executions since Raisi became President, his presidency means more hostility toward the international community. Were the regime not vulnerable, it would not have come to the negotiating table. As it stands right now, the mullahs are on the ropes at home and reeling from increasing international isolation. Offering it a lifeline at this juncture would send the wrong message.
Winston Churchill once said: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile — hoping it will eat him last.” Has the time not come for our leaders to learn from the war of occupation in Ukraine and other historical events such as World War II that authoritarian regimes only understand the language of firmness and not dovish approaches?”
The only awards the mullahs need from the West are tighter sanctions and further isolation. They should be brought to their knees. This is the only way to curb their evil activities. Our real partners to bring enduring peace and stability to the Middle East are the Iranian people, not their oppressors.
Alejo Vidal-Quadras, a professor of atomic and nuclear physics, was vice-president of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014. He is President of the International Committee In Search of Justice (ISJ)