Feb 20, 2022 - World

Iran demanding Revolutionary Guards be taken off terror list in nuclear talks: Israeli PM

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Photo: Amir Levy/Getty Images

Iran is demanding during the nuclear talks in Vienna that the U.S. remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from a blacklist of foreign terrorist organizations as a condition for a nuclear deal, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Sunday.

Why it matters: Bennett used a speech to representatives of U.S. Jewish organizations in Jerusalem to highlight the remaining gaps between the U.S. and Iran as the talks approach the finish line.

Driving the news: Bennett, who opposes a U.S. return to the nuclear deal, did not say whether the Biden administration had agreed to reverse Donald Trump's 2019 decision to blacklist the IRGC, a powerful branch of Iran's military with close links to the supreme leader.

  • He did say the U.S. had thus far rejected another Iranian demand, that an International Atomic Energy Agency investigation into the potential military dimension of Iran's nuclear program be closed.
  • But Bennett said that the U.S. and the European signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal had agreed to allow Iran to keep its advanced centrifuges in storage inside Iran rather than destroy them.
  • Another sticking point in the talks is Iran's demand for assurances that it will get the expected economic benefits from a return to the deal and that no future U.S. administration will abandon it as Trump did.

What he's saying: "And to cap the Chutzpa — Iran is demanding to delist The IRGC. Do you understand? They are now asking to let the biggest terror organization on earth off the hook," Bennett said.

  • Bennett also claimed Iran is hiding nuclear weapon-related materials. "Our friends in America are telling us that they are standing firm on this and I hope it will continue," he said.

Bennett made clear that he feels the Biden administration inherited the nuclear crisis with Iran, just as his government did, and stressed that he doesn’t want “to play the blame game” or pick a fight with the United States.

  • “Despite the differences we have on this agreement, our relations with our friend President Biden and his administration, will remain close and strong," Bennett said.
  • He stressed that Israel won’t accept Iran as a nuclear threshold state and will always maintain its freedom of action to defend itself against Iran.
  • A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on Bennett's remarks.

What to watch: Both Iran and the Western powers say that a deal could possibly be reached within days, but blame the other side for failing to close the remaining gaps.

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