Why a terror designation is the final sticking point in Iran-US talks

Iran’s insistence on de-designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) appeared to be the final major sticking point in the talks, with neither side showing new signs of compromise.

But on Saturday, the Houthis said they would suspend missile and drone strikes on Saudi Arabia for three days as part of a peace initiative.

A Elite Wings of Iran’s military, the IRGC was established after the country’s 1979 revolution and today spearheads Iran’s military operations in the region, including Iraq and Syria. Their animosity towards the US runs deep.
The group was designated the FTO by the US in 2019 under then-President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign aimed at curbing Tehran’s power in the region after the US withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian appeared to hint at a compromise on Saturday before stepping down. In an interview with state television, he said senior IRGC officials had urged him not to delay a nuclear deal because of “the IRGC issue.” It would be a “self-sacrifice” that the group is doing, he said.

Amir-Abdollahian’s statements drew strong backlash from the Iranian media. He later appeared to back down, saying: “There is no crossing or compromising on the red lines [on delisting as an FTO] at all.”

When pressed on Sunday, Malley didn’t rule out a delisting, saying only that the sanctions against the group would remain in place “no matter what”.

Some analysts said the term terror was little more than symbolic for either side.

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The impact of delisting the IRGC is only symbolic, as pre-2015 sanctions continue to choke the group economically, said Mehran Haghirian, director of regional initiatives at the Bourse & Bazaar Foundation.

“The FTO designation is redundant,” added Ali Vaez, Iran Project Manager at the International Crisis Group. “It doesn’t help the US, it doesn’t harm Iran.”

“It’s an absurd non-issue,” he said. “There is no other organization sanctioned by the US like the IRGC,” he said.

Mohammad Marandi, a professor at Tehran University, said the designation is important because it gives the US an excuse to militarily target the group.

“If the United States and Iran are both present [in the Persian Gulf] and the two sides regard the other navy as a terrorist organization, then there are no lines of communication and that could lead to big problems,” he said.

The Trump administration killed the head of the IRGC’s elite Kuds Force, Qassim Soleimani, in a military operation in Iraq in 2020, less than one year after appointment of the IRGC as FTO. Soleimani himself was described as “global terrorist‘ by the United States in 2011.

“The US assassinated a senior Iranian military official…and then keeping Iran on the list of a terrorist organization – that’s unacceptable for Iran,” Marandi said.

Tehran is unlikely to accept anything other than a full delisting of the FTO designation, Vaez and Marandi said. “There is no middle ground on this issue,” added Vaez.

Iran recognizes the sanctions and being named an FTO are separate issues, the latter of which was a legacy of the Trump era, analysts said. “It was symbolically imposed by Trump,” Haghirian said. “They knew it wouldn’t have a big impact.”

The Iranian Foreign Minister’s comments on state television, which later required clarification, arguably meant that the IRGC “have no problem with continuing to be sanctioned – they will do what they have to do,” Marandi said. “The FTO is a different matter.”

With additional coverage by Adam Pourahadi and Abbas Al Lawati, CNN

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  • background: The UAE sent confusing messages about whether or not to support higher production earlier this month when its ambassador in Washington said his country would encourage OPEC to consider higher production. The Department of Energy has since repeatedly stated that it supports OPEC+ decisions and acts only within them.
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Two people are killed and six injured in an IS attack in Israel

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Something to see

Turkish Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin speaks with Becky Anderson ahead of talks between the warring factions in Istanbul on Tuesday on the issues between Russia and Ukraine.

Around the region

From leftovers on our plates to an environmentally friendly product. Shrimp shells have found a new use in organic farming.

In a small laboratory in Giza, Egypt, researchers found a way to use shrimp to make organic products from their shell.

Every year, the nation throws away thousands of tons of shrimp waste, polluting the environment. Prawns are plentiful in the country and contain the key ingredient in a product that could potentially transform the way Egyptians farm.

That ingredient is chitosan, the sugar that comes from the outer skeleton of shellfish.

Shahira Yehia’s biotech startup, Chitosan Egypt, collects shrimp waste from about five or six local hubs across the country, extracts chitosan and turns it into unique formulas that can replace artificial synthetic fertilizers that can be harmful to the environment.

To do this, the minerals are separated from the shells, dried and ground into an organic product for agriculture.

It acts as a natural resource that boosts the immune system of plants, Yehia said. “It targets over 70 pests in 20 strategic crops, including potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and strawberries.”

As in many developing countries, the agricultural sector in Egypt makes a significant contribution to gross domestic product with over 11%. According to Yehia, not only is their product environmentally friendly, but it is also 20% cheaper than what farmers in Egypt are used to.

By Yara Enany, CNN

picture of the Day

Speeding vehicles are seen during the 2022 Formula One STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on March 27.

https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/28/middleeast/mideast-summary-03-28-2022-intl/index.html Why a terror designation is the final sticking point in Iran-US talks

Chris Estrada

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