At this point it looks like hopes for a restored Iran nuclear deal have effectively sunk, given that Politico is reporting President Biden has decided against taking the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) off the designated terrorist list. "President Joe Biden has finalized his decision to keep Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on a terrorist blacklist, according to a senior Western official, further complicating international efforts to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal," Politico writes Wednesday.
The Israeli government has already been informed: "Another person familiar with the matter said Biden conveyed his decision during an April 24 phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, adding that the decision was conveyed as absolutely final and that the window for Iranian concessions had closed," according to the report.
But removing the designation was of course a key stipulation of the Iranians in Vienna. Tehran has blamed Washington for the indefinite pause in talks, waiting for this final hurdle towards a restored JPOA to be removed. At the same time Biden's lead envoy on the Iran nuclear talks, Rob Malley, told a Senate panel Wednesday the status of the talks are now "tenuous at best".
The Biden White House is fully aware that this action is likely to torpedo a nuclear deal which has long been in the negotiating process for most of last year. The irony is that the IRGC being a designated terror group has little to no impact on its financing or operations, according to the consensus of many reports over prior months.
For example, geopolitical analyst Daniel Larison writes that the US actually has nothing to gain in terms of degrading the Islamic Republic's military capabilities with such a move:
Biden’s decision to leave the entire IRGC on the list is the wrong one, but more than that it is a remarkably stupid decision because the designation has served no purpose. This is not a case of weighing between different priorities and considering the tradeoffs between them. If the US gained something from keeping the IRGC on the list, there might at least be something to debate, but the administration itself doesn’t believe that the designation matters. As Peter Beinart pointed out earlier this month, “By its own admission, the Biden administration is risking the Iran nuclear deal for nothing.” Biden is jeopardizing what should be a major policy success for the sake of preserving an empty gesture of hostility.
He further calls the question of the IRGC's designation "likely the last chance that Biden had to salvage the nuclear deal" – which had been a year in the making, taking up much of the first part of Biden's administration.
Thus it appears the hawks have won out, but it also comes as a major investigative report in The Wall Street Journal alleges that Iran has been covering up its nuclear weapons aspirations for years by allegedly falsifying a document trail with an eye toward covering up past work on a hidden nuclear weapons program…
"Iran secured access to secret United Nations atomic agency reports almost two decades ago and circulated the documents among top officials who prepared cover stories and falsified a record to conceal suspected past work on nuclear weapons, according to Middle East intelligence officials and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal."
JUST RAN: Iran obtained confidential IAEA documents from intelligence officials which it circulated to top officials like Shamkhani & Fakhrizadeh to help evade Agency’s investigations into its past work, according to documents reviewed by the Journal. https://t.co/Og1BwTVYI5 -1-
— laurence norman (@laurnorman) May 25, 2022
Persian-language Iranian records reveal some of the tactics used, reportedly with an aim to falsify and evade external monitoring and checks ahead of the Obama-brokered 2015 nuclear deal.
"According to Middle East intelligence officials, the documents from the IAEA were circulated between 2004 and 2006 among Iranian military, government, and nuclear program officials," the report says. "The IAEA was tasked with investigating information that suggested Iran worked on nuclear weapons, however, armed with the IAEA documents Iran was likely able to cover evidence and twist narratives before the agency paid a visit."
The records were reportedly obtained from a 2018 covert Israeli intelligence raid on a facility said to contain documented evidence of an alleged ongoing nuclear program, which the Israelis have since handed on to the US for its review. However, this also means these bombshell charges should be evaluated with a big grain of salt, given the 'evidence' originated with a foreign intelligence service which is Iran's longtime bitter enemy.