Tehran's demand that the US remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from Washington's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) has been the main stumbling block to the conclusion of a deal to revive the nuclear agreement between Iran and the West, but the IRGC action to seize two Greek tankers last Friday may have made those who kept urging President Joe Biden to delist IRGC change their mind.
The US administration has taken part in eight rounds of indirect talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), that is the nuclear deal with Iran that was reached in 2015 by the Obama Administration but was scuttled in 2019 by former President Donald Trump.
Arguably It was the greatest diplomatic success of former President Barack Obama, while its annulment is deemed to be Donald Trump's biggest foreign policy failure.
Last March these indirect talks in Vienna appeared to be leading to a successful conclusion but suddenly the Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian set the removal of the IRGC from the Terrorist list and the lifting of sanctions against it as a precondition for the conclusion of the deal.
US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Mally in a testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week said that the odds of failing to revive the JCPOA outweighed those of success. "We do not have a deal ... and prospects for reaching one are, at best, tenuous," he said and ominously added that Iran's breakout time to achieve nuclear weapons capability is a matter of weeks.
As reported by Politico, US President Joe Biden has finalized his decision to leave the IRGC on the Foreign Terrorist Organizations List. This was confirmed last Tuesday by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet, who praised the relevant decision and described Biden as a "true friend of Israel". The Israeli government has always regarded the IRGC as the world's largest terrorist organization.
Iran wants the removal of the IRGC designation because it made it very risky for multinational corporations to do business with companies linked to the IRGC and has seriously affected its capacity to export the "Iranian Revolution" abroad. It should be noted that the Iranian Military Force has extensive involvement in energy, construction, telecommunications, banking and finance organizations in Iran.
It is clarified that the designation as a Foreign Terrorist Organization generally does not apply to groups that are organs of a state, as is the case with the IRGC, which is a national army.
Former Iranian Foreign Minister Sayyid Kamal Kharrazi, speaking recently at a conference, stressed that "a national army cannot be listed as a terrorist group."
The arguments of those supporting the view that IRGC should be delisted from the FTO were considerably weakened last Friday when the Islamic Revolutionary Guardian Corps, citing unspecified violations, seized two Greek-flagged tankers loaded with Iraqi crude oil off the Iranian coast. The two vessels were sailing in international waters in the Strait of Hormuz.
The saga started last month when Greek Authorities, implementing US and EU sanctions against Russia, seized "Pegas," a Russian-flagged tanker, carrying Iranian oil off the island of Evia. A few days later the tanker changed its name to "Lana" and carried an Iranian flag. Later Lana's crude oil cargo was transferred to a Liberian-flagged tanker to be taken to the United States.
Tehran described the whole action as "international robbery" and threatened "punitive action".
On Friday afternoon IRG forces, using helicopters and speedboats, boarded two Greek tankers named "Prudent Warrior" and "Delta Poseidon". After that, Iranian ships escorted the tankers, which were sailing in international waters, to an anchorage near the Iranian coast.
Immediately after the seizure of the two Greek vessels, the Greek Foreign Ministry made a strong demarche to the Iranian ambassador in Athens, saying that "these actions are an act of piracy". Greece also demanded the immediate release of the crew who has been arrested as well as of the vessels.
Moreover, it warned Tehran that the incident would have a negative impact on the relations between Greece and Iran as well as those between Iran and the European Union.
According to press reports, the "Prudent Warrior" has a crew of 25 men, 7 Greeks and 18 Filipinos, while on board of "Delta Poseidon" there are 2 Greeks and an unknown number of foreign nationals.
On Sunday Tehran announced that the two tankers have been ordered to sail to Bandar Abbas on the southern coast of Iran. It also said the crews of the vessels are in good health and have had their cell phones returned to them to communicate with their families.
On several occasions in the past, Tehran responded to the confiscation of ships carrying Iranian oil, by seizing oil tankers of other countries, but in the past few years, it refrained from taking such an action.
It is unclear how this issue will be resolved and probably it will escalate as the Tasnim news agency, which has strong links with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has warned that 17 other Greek-flagged tankers currently afloat in the Persian Gulf would be seized by Iran if its oil and tanker taken by Greece last month were not returned. (ANI)