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US to maintain sanctions on Iran's Revolutionary Guard even if nucelar deal is reached

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By Rebekah Daunt  & AFP
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid walk together after a news conference
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid walk together after a news conference   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has promised Washington will work alongside its allies to stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons.

Blinken made his comments at a press conference with Israel's Foreign Minister ahead of a special gathering with his Israeli and Gulf Arab counterparts where the Iranian nuclear deal was expected to be top of the agenda.

The Biden administration has been working to renew the 2015 nuclear deal, which placed curbs on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. With support from Israel, the UD withdrew from the deal in 2018, causing it to unravel.

Although Iran has since raced ahead with its nuclear program, Israel and Gulf Arab countries are deeply concerned about restoring the original deal.

Israel fears it does not include enough safeguards to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

"We are both committed, both determined that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon. Russia's aggression against Ukraine is another reminder of why this is so important. An Iran with a nuclear weapon or the capacity to produce one on short notice would become even more aggressive and would believe it could act with a false sense of impunity" said Blinken at the press conference.

"The United States believes that a return to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the best way to put Iran's nuclear program back in the box that it was in, but the program has escaped from this box since the United States withdrew from that agreement" he added.

Both Israel and its Gulf allies also believe that relief from economic sanctions will allow Iran to step up its military activities across the region, including support for hostile militant groups.

In response to Blinken's assurances, Yair Lapid, Israel's minister of foreign affairs, said, "Israel will do anything we believe is needed to stop the Iranian nuclear program. Anything. From our point of view, the Iranian threat is not theoretical. The Iranians want to destroy Israel. They will not succeed; we will not let them".

But Robert Malley, US special envoy for Iran, announced that the US will maintain sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Islamic Republic's ideological army at the Doha Forum on Sunday. He cautioned that a deal was not "inevitable" and not "just around the corner".

"Our view of the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), the sanctions, the many other sanctions on the IRGC will remain. This is not a deal that intends to resolve that issue. We hope that it could be addressed as you said, but many in the region view the IRGC in the same way that we view it and just witnessed the latest attack in Arbil, but we know this is not a deal that is going to address that" said Malley.

Iran has insisted that a revived nuclear accord, which diplomats say is close, is conditional on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps being taken off a US terrorist list.

Sayyid Kamal Kharrazi, Iran's Former Minister of Foreign Affairs countered Malley's comments by saying, "The IRGC is a national army, and a national army cannot be listed as a terrorist group and certainly, this is not acceptable. That is very important to Iranians".

Vahid Salemi/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press.
A Revolutionary Guard member walks past Qiam missile displayed in a missile capabilities exhibition by the Guard in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Jan. 7, 2022Vahid Salemi/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press.

The Guards were placed on the list in April 2019 under former president Donald Trump for Iran's support of the Syrian government, Yemen's Huthi rebels and the Lebanese group Hezbollah.

It came the year after Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Kharrazi also said Iran wanted guarantees that the United States would not withdraw again from the deal. Malley said there could be no guarantee after President Joe Biden's term ends.

Iran has engaged in negotiations to revive the accord with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia directly and the United States indirectly since April 2021.

The European Union's coordinator for the Vienna talks, Enrique Mora, is in Tehran where he is hoping to find a way to hammer out the remaining differences.

Also at the Doha Forum, the European Union's top diplomat Josep Borrell says he hopes a deal will be possible and that world powers could iron out their issues in a matter of days. "The purpose is to make the deal work again and to have the security that Iran will not be a nuclear power. I can not tell if we are going to have a lasting agreement, we are very close but there are still some issues pending" he said.