US tells Iran to address its concerns for sanctions relief beyond 2015 nuclear deal

Tehran insists it will not abandon plans to avenge Qassem Suleimani as a condition to end sanctions

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 7, 2022. AFP
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The US has told Iran that if it wants sanctions relief beyond that of the 2015 nuclear deal, it must first address Washington's concerns beyond the pact.

“We are not negotiating in public but if Iran wants sanctions lifting that goes beyond the JCPOA, they will need to address concerns of ours beyond the JCPOA,” a State Department representative said on Thursday, referring to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The State Department response came after Iran insisted that its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) be removed from a US terrorism list.

The US insisted this month that the IRGC's elite Quds Force would remain on its designated list of terrorist groups.

Gen Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently told a congressional hearing that the Quds Force, the overseas operations arm of the IRGC, should not be dropped from the terrorist list.

“If they do not want to use these talks to resolve other bilateral issues beyond the JCPOA, then we are confident that we can very quickly reach an understanding on the JCPOA and begin reimplementing the deal,” the State Department representative said.

“Iran needs to make a decision.”

The State Department representative was responding to a top Iranian official who earlier said Iran would not give up its plans to avenge Quds Force commander Maj Gen Qassem Suleimani as a condition to end sanctions.

Iran's position on the matter has been a sticking point in nuclear talks.

IRGC navy commander Admiral Alireza Tangsiri said that “enemies have asked us several times to give up avenging the blood of Qassem Suleimani, for the lifting of some sanctions, but this is a fantasy”, according to the IRGC's Sepah News website.

Suleimani was killed in a US drone strike in Iraq's capital of Baghdad in January 2020.

“Under any return to the JCPOA, the United States would retain and aggressively use our powerful tools to address Iran’s destabilising activities and its support for terrorism and terrorist proxies, and especially to counter the IRGC,” the State Department representative said.

The Quds Force controls the IRGC's militia allies abroad.

The Trump administration put the IRGC on the State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organisations in 2019, the first time Washington formally labelled another nation’s military as a terrorist group.

Updated: June 13, 2023, 11:36 AM