A few weeks ago, it was reported that the Biden Administration was seriously considering removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). In a recent opinion piece, a member of Israel’s Knesset and a former senior Israeli national security official bewilderingly endorsed the idea. Their affirmation makes the U.S. and Israel less secure.
This initial report set off a massive flurry of diplomatic and media attention, with large amounts of consternation against a move that would free up one of the most egregious terrorist groups in the world to carry on its campaign of chaos, destabilization and bloodshed.
As is well known, the IRGC was created in 1979 to ensure the survival of the Ayatollahs’ regime at home, create a reign of terror that chills Iranians into constant obedience, and act to further Iran’s Shiite extremist ideology around the region and globe.
Its tentacles are supporting conflict in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, to name but a few. The IRGC has also been behind the constant threats to U.S. interests in the region and commercial shipping lanes in the Gulf.
As a result, countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have also designated it as a terrorist organization.
It is almost impossible to summarize the breadth and extent of malevolence one organization creates in the Middle East and far beyond in one article.
Most commentators and opinion-shapers on the issue argued that it was necessary to maintain the IRGC’s place on the FTO list, and to these were joined some top U.S. officials, like Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley.
"In my personal opinion, I believe the IRGC Quds Force to be a terrorist organization, and I do not support them being delisted from the foreign terrorist organization list," General Milley said at a congressional hearing.
Part of the diplomatic efforts behind the scenes was led by Israel, which is constantly in the crosshairs of the IRGC.
Only a few days ago, the head of the paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps expeditionary unit, known as the Quds Force, General Esmail Ghaani said that Iran supports any groups ready to fight Israel.
With General Milley’s committed position and General Ghaani’s commitment to shed more Israeli blood, it was remarkable to read that two senior Israeli officials wrote in favor of the IRGC’s terrorist delisting.
Israel’s Deputy Minister of Economics and Industry and retired general Yair Golan and former Israeli Deputy National Security Adviser Chuck Freilich wrote in The Jerusalem Post that: “There is no doubt that the IRGC is a heinous terrorist organization, responsible for the murder of Americans, Israelis and others. There are, however, more important issues at stake.”
One has to read that last sentence again.
Here are two senior officials, both steeped in Israel’s security apparatus claiming that sanctioning an organization committed to the murder of Americans and Israelis is not the most important issue at hand.
It is at the same time deeply unnerving and appalling.
It almost defies explanation, until one notices in the bylines of the signatories to the article that both are associated with the MirYam Institute.
Billed as a forum for leading Israeli experts of diverse and varied perspectives, it is unclear what the organization actually does.
On its website, the MirYam Institute reveals to have evolved from the organization Our Soldiers Speak (OSS). That now largely defunct organization was founded by MirYam Institute’s Co-Founder and CEO Benjamin Anthony.
Anthony is not a well-known figure but came to notoriety in 2018, when it emerged that he had taken a $100,000 charitable donation from the Qatari leadership.
At the time, a few Jewish and Israeli figures and organizations were reportedly identified and paid by Qatar to further its interests. While most of the other recipients of Qatari largesse returned the money when found out, Anthony adamantly refused.
“We are very pleased to take every penny we receive and apply it towards the mission statement of our work,” Anthony said when asked if he planned to send the money back after it was disclosed the donation was from Qatar.
Qatar, as is well-known, has extremely close relations with Iran, more than all other states in the region.
In fact, in 2017, Qatar was boycotted by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan because of its involvement in terrorism and closeness to Iran. Furthermore, it was accused of helping to fund Iranian-backed regional Shiite militias.
Qatar has a specifically close relationship with the IRGC, recently allowing its senior commanders to come and enjoy, and show off its hard weaponry, at a maritime defense show in Doha.
When Iran wants to get a message across in the past, it has employed commentators and NGOs to argue its case, whether on the JCPOA or other issues.
The article by Golan and Freilich is an aberration in the almost unanimous objection to the removal of the IRGC from the FTO list. Their connection to an organization which has in the past knowingly and unrepentantly accepted lobbyist money from Qatar, a close ally of Iran, is unacceptable.
To continue to support the unsupportable, and try to explain the inexplicable, raises a lot of serious questions.
Golan, Freilich, and Anthony have some explaining to do.
Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum.