The Biden administration plans to reject an Iranian demand that the United States lift its designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization as a condition for renewing the 2015 nuclear agreement, a senior administration official told The Washington Post.
"The onus is on Iran whether we have a nuclear deal. The President will stick to core principles. The Iranians know our views," said the official.
This came as Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi said Saturday that Tehran would not give up its right to develop its nuclear industry for peaceful purposes, and all parties involved in talks to revive the 2015 nuclear accord should respect this.
The indirect talks between Iran and the US have faltered after 11 months of negotiations in Vienna, as each side throws the ball into the court of the other to take political decisions to settle the outstanding issues.
"For more than the one-hundredth time, our message from Tehran to Vienna is that we will not back off from the Iranian people's nuclear rights... not even an iota," state media quoted Raisi as saying in a speech marking Iran's Nuclear Technology Day.
One Iranian diplomat told Reuters that Tehran had rejected a US proposal to overcome the sticking point by keeping the IRGC's overseas arm, the Quds Force, under FTO sanctions while delisting the IRGC as an entity.
However, the US State Department said that the Quds Force should remain on its blacklist after the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, told the Senate Armed Services Committee: "In my personal opinion, I believe the IRGC Quds Force to be a terrorist organization, and I do not support them being delisted."
In response to whether the Biden administration shares General Milley's view, State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter said the President shares the chairman's view that IRGC Qods Forces are terrorists.
"I would say is out of the 107 Biden administration designations in relation to Iran, 86 have specifically targeted the IRGC-related persons as well as affiliates," said Porter.
Earlier, State Secretary Anthony Blinken said in an exclusive interview with NBC that the IRGC is a terrorist organization, adding that "I would say simply that I'm not overly optimistic at the prospects of actually getting an agreement to a conclusion."
Blinken's consultations with his E3 counterparts in the European Troika, France, Germany, and Britain in Brussels addressed the Iranian nuclear issue.
Blinken and his E3 counterparts discussed a common resolve to ensure Iran never acquired a nuclear weapon.
They agreed that a diplomatic solution entailing a joint return to full implementation of the JCPOA is the "best outcome" but noted that they are prepared for other scenarios if necessary.
The administration of former President Donald Trump listed the IRGC on its terrorist list in 2019, nearly a year after unilaterally withdrawing from the agreement concluded between Iran and major powers in 2015.
Biden, who succeeded Trump, expressed his desire to return to the agreement, provided that Tehran complies with all of its commitments that it has retracted in the wake of Washington's withdrawal.
Recent statements by US officials prompted some analysts to say that Washington distinguishes between the IRGC and the Quds Force.
Earlier in March, US negotiator Rob Malley said that the IRGC would remain under US sanctions even if the group was removed from the terrorist list and that the stance of the United States would remain unchanged.
Meanwhile, a group of Republican senators called on the Biden administration to provide Israel with the weapons and military capabilities it needed to defend itself from Iran.
Mark Rubio, who led the campaign, urged the administration to take immediate action to provide Israel with the military capabilities it needs to defend itself from Iran, warning that a nuclear-armed Tehran would have significant negative regional implications.
The 11 senators sent a letter to the administration calling for expediting the delivery of KC-46A aerial refueling tankers to Israel as rapidly as possible without interrupting deliveries to the Air Force.
They asserted that the administration must also ensure that Israel retains adequate stockpiles of US-made precision-guided munitions.
"Finally, you must ensure that Israel possesses robust, multi-layered air defenses to mitigate attacks by Iran and its proxies, to include continued support for the Iron Dome, David's Sling, and Arrow systems."