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JERUSALEM, Israel – President Biden has reportedly decided to keep Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list. While the White House has not confirmed the report, observers view this as a diplomatic triumph for Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
A report in Politico, Tuesday, quoted a senior Western official as confirming the decision. Bennett, whose ruling coalition has been plagued with infighting in recent weeks, released a statement late Tuesday night welcoming the move not to delist the IRGC. His statement noted that the decision was the “right, moral and correct” move and noted that it showed the United States’ commitment to Israel’s strength and security.
Bennett said Biden had informed him of his decision during their last conversation in April. Israeli Defense Minister,Benny Gantz was briefed on the issue in his meeting last week in Washington with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Israel has been a vocal opponent of the Biden administration’s decision to try and revive the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA.)
The move by the Biden administration is expected to deliver a major setback to the nuclear talks with Iran, which have already been stalled for months. Iranian negotiators tied the delisting of the IRGC, along with the removal of sanctions, with its willingness to continue the negotiations.
A senior Israeli official told Fox News Digital that even though Israel is not part of the Iranian nuclear deal, it will continue to oppose it and do whatever it takes to protect the security and safety of its citizens: “deal, or no deal.”
Observers say the Biden administration’s refusal to delist the group is a significant achievement for Israel. The effort they note was led by national security adviser Eyal Hulata and Shimrit Meir, an outgoing adviser to Bennett.
Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News Digital that, “Retaining the IRGC on the FTO list helps with more than just Iran policy, it helps with Washington’s broader counterterrorism policy. In this respect, designated terror groups will know that there is no way to avoid terrorism penalties unless they shed the capability and intent to support terror.”
He continued, “Rather than confound diplomacy, this can help strengthen Washington’s hand and begin to unwind the image that it will fold on non-nuclear sanctions in a nuclear deal.”
On Wednesday the Biden administration’s point man on the Iran nuclear deal, Robert Malley, was quoted by Reuters as saying, “We don’t have a deal with Iran and prospects for reaching one are, at best, tenuous.” His remarks, Reuters reported, were part of his prepared statement to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.
Last week, Gantz warned that Iran was moving ever closer to its nuclear goal by doubling its storage to 60% of enriched uranium over the past two months, and said it was only weeks away from stockpiling sufficient material to construct its first nuclear bomb.
The former head of Israeli military intelligence recently voiced a different opinion than the current defense chief and said a nuclear deal with Iran would delay its nuclear efforts and buy Israel time. Tamir Hayman noted that time is an important factor and that “many other things can be done: threaten, improve military capabilities, build international coalitions or create an agreement for the period after the current agreement,”
Apart from its efforts to stall the deal, Israel has targeted Iranian moves in the Middle East and taken action against Iranian proxies in the region. It has also been suspected of assassinating Iranian generals involved in the Iranian nuclear program or in the planning of attacks against Israelis abroad.
The latest assassination took place last week, when two gunmen on a motorbike killed Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei outside his apartment in Tehran. Khodaei was part of the Qods forces, which oversee foreign actions on behalf of the regime.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi vowed to avenge his death, blaming “global arrogance,” a reference typically used to describe the U.S. and its allies, such as Israel.
When asked by reporters on Tuesday to confirm reports of the IRGC staying on the terror list, State Department spokesman Ned Price did not offer a comment.
Fox News’ State Department producer Nick Kalman contributed to this report.