The State Department does not currently believe that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps should be designated as a foreign terrorist organization despite the military organization’s efforts to procure nuclear materials and conduct terrorist operations across the globe, according to a State Department official who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.
Obama administration officials last week were hesitant to address the issue during testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. When asked to clarify its position on the corps, a State Department official told the Free Beacon that now is not the time to formally designate the military group as a terrorist organization.
Iranian officials have insisted that any new sanctions from the United States would be considered a violation of the recent nuclear deal and cause for Iran to walk away from the agreement.
The State Department maintains that the sanctions in place on the corps, which target certain individuals and actions, are enough to rein in the group’s rogue behavior. Iran itself is designated as a state sponsor of terror.
"We believe the sanctions we have in place remain the most appropriate and effective tools for targeting the IRGC, and we are making full use of such authorities with respect to the IRGC," said a State Department official who was not authorized to speak on record. "In addition to Iran’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, we have a substantial set of sanctions already in place against the IRGC."
These include targeted sanctions on the corps for "having engaged, or attempted to engage, in [nuclear] proliferation-related activities," the source said. Other U.S. sanctions freeze "the assets of proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters, thereby isolating them from the U.S. commercial and financial systems."
The corps, which controls a vast number of businesses and assets in Iran, also has been sanctioned by the Treasury Department for its human rights abuses.
"These sanctions also have ‘secondary’ effects, meaning that non-U.S. persons that engage in transactions with the IRGC or any other designated entity can also be sanctioned and cut off from the U.S. market," the official said.
However, some lawmakers are seeking greater action and have urged the administration to formally designate the corps as a foreign terrorist organization, which would carry more weight and restrain the organization’s global terrorist activities.
Under the nuclear deal, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officials and businesses controlled by the group would have international sanctions on it eased. These include sanctions on at least one commander directly responsible for killing Americans.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R., Texas) pressed Anne Patterson, assistant secretary of state in the bureau of near eastern affairs, during a hearing last week on Iran’s rogue activities.
Since the nuclear deal, "Iran has taken several provocative actions, including ballistic missile tests, the jailing of Americans on frivolous charges, and support for terrorist activities via the IRGC, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps," McCaul said.
The corps has been linked to terrorist operations across the Middle East and beyond, including arming terror proxy groups fighting against the United States and Israel.
"I sent a letter to the president of the United States requesting that the IRGC be placed on the Foreign Terrorist Organization list because they are the terror arm of Iran," McCaul said. "This would not lift the sanctions. It would keep the sanctions in place on the very terrorist activities that Iran wants to take the $100 billion and ship them toward these activities. What is your response to whether or not designating the IRGC as an FTO [foreign terrorist organization], whether that is a good decision?"
Patterson sidestepped the question, but said that the State Department does not think the group can legally be categorized as a terrorist organization.
"I can’t answer that question, Mr. McCaul," Patterson said. "I’ll have to get back to you. I would not think they would meet the legal criteria, but I don’t really know."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) recently spearheaded a legislative charge to designate the IRGC. His bill would require the IRGC to be formally designated and could mitigate the impact of sanctions relief set to be provided under the parameters of the nuclear agreement.
"Branches of the [Revolutionary Guard Corps] have murdered hundreds of Americans," Cruz said in a statement at the time. "They have attacked our allies, notably Israel. They have provided material support for other designated terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Yet for years the United States has sanctioned [Revolutionary Guard Corps] entities while leaving the organization itself untouched."