US backtracks on threat to penalize doing business with IRGC
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US backtracks on threat to penalize doing business with IRGC

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has granted exceptions to foreign governments, firms and NGOs who have dealings with the IRGC, Reuters reported late Sunday, citing three current and three former US officials. The exceptions would allow partner governments like Iraq and Oman as well as humanitarian groups in the region such as the ones in northern Syria and Yemen, to maintain their relations with the IRGC without fear of repercussions. Based on these exceptions, officials from countries such as Iraq who may have dealings with the IRGC would not necessarily be denied US visas or automatically face sanctions. However, the US government has also created an exception to the carve-out, retaining the right to sanction any individual in a foreign government, company or NGO who themselves provides “material support” to the IRGC. The exemptions, a congressional aide and two former US State Department lawyers said, appeared designed to ensure that the rest of the Iranian government, as well as officials from partner governments such as Iraq and Oman who may deal with the IRGC, would not automatically be tainted by its FTO designation. Last Monday, the US officially registered the IRGC as a "foreign terrorist organization," according to a notice published on the website of the US Federal Register. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in his notice that based upon a review of the Administrative Record assembled in this matter, and in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of the Treasury, “I conclude that there is a sufficient factual basis to find that the relevant circumstances described in section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended (hereinafter “INA”) (8 U.S.C. 1189), exist with respect to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard[s] Corps, also known as [the] IRGC.” US President Donald Trump said in a statement on April 8 that the Iranian elite forces' designation as a foreign "terrorist" group "makes crystal clear the risks of conducting business with, or providing support to, the IRGC. If you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism." Shortly after Trump's statement on the IRGC, Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) slammed the US government as a "supporter of terrorism," designating American forces in West Asia, known as the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), as a "terrorist organization." Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also warned of "long-term and immediate repercussions" of the US decision, saying the move “could lead to dangerous legal and political repercussions”. The US blacklisting of the IRGC poses one of the most serious threats to the international order, Zarif said. American officials have long said they fear the designation could endanger US forces in places such as Syria or Iraq, where they may operate in close proximity to IRGC-allied groups. The State Department’s Near Eastern and South and Central Asian bureaus, wrote a rare joint memo to Pompeo before the designation expressing concerns about its potential impact, but were overruled, two US officials said on condition of anonymity. The action was also taken over the objections of the Defense and Homeland Security Departments, a congressional aide said.

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