Iran Won't Abandon Avenging Soleimani Killing for U.S. Sanction Relief, Top Official Says

'The enemy keeps sending messages that if we give up on avenging Soleimani, they will give us some concessions or lift some sanctions. This is pure fantasy,' says Revolutionary Guards' Navy chief

Iranian women hold pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and General Qassem Soleimani, 2021.
Iranian women hold pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and General Qassem Soleimani, 2021.Credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY / REUTERS

Iran will not give up on its plans to avenge the 2020 U.S. assassination of Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, despite "regular offers" from Washington to lift sanctions and provide other concessions in return, a top official said on Thursday.

Over the last year, Iran and the United States have had indirect talks in Vienna to revive a 2015 nuclear deal that was abandoned by Washington in 2018 by then-President Donald Trump and subsequently violated by Tehran starting in 2019.

Under the 2015 agreement, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions.

While they appeared close to resurrecting the deal in March, talks stalled over last-minute Russian demands and whether Washington might drop Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which includes the Quds Force, from its Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list.

"The enemy keeps sending messages that if we give up on avenging Soleimani, they will give us some concessions or lift some sanctions," Revolutionary Guards' Navy Commander Alireza Tangsiri said.

"This is pure fantasy," he added. "The Supreme Leader has emphasized the need for revenge and the Revolutionary Guards' top commander has said that revenge is inevitable and that we will choose the time and place for it."

Asked about the comments, a State Department spokesperson said if Iran wanted sanctions relief beyond the 2015 nuclear deal, it must address U.S. concerns beyond the pact.

While neither Tangsiri nor the U.S. spokesperson specified what they meant, they appeared to be alluding to Tehran's demand that Washington drop the Revolutionary Guards from its FTO list.

"If Iran wants sanctions lifting that goes beyond the JCPOA, they will need to address concerns of ours beyond the JCPOA," the U.S. spokesperson said, referring to the 2015 nuclear deal. "Conversely, 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."

"Iran needs to make a decision," the spokesperson added.

The Quds Force is the foreign espionage and paramilitary arm of the Revolutionary Guards that controls its allied militia abroad. The Trump administration put the Guards on the State Department's FTO list in 2019, the first time Washington formally labelled another nation’s military a terrorist group.

Soleimani, head of the Guards' elite Quds Force, was killed by U.S. air strikes in January 2020 while on a visit to Iraq's capital Baghdad.

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