The exemptions, granted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and described by a State Department spokesman in response to questions from Reuters, mean officials from countries such as Iraq who may have dealings with Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps would not necessarily be denied US visas.
The exceptions to US sanctions would also permit foreign executives who do business in Iran as well as humanitarian groups working in regions such as northern Syria, Iraq and Yemen, to do so without fear they will be punished.
However, the US government 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 a US-designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
On April 8, US President Donald Trump announced that Washington is designating the IRGC a foreign “terrorist organization”, marking the first time the US has formally labeled another country’s military a terrorist group.
Responding to the move, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council immediately declared the US as a state sponsor of terrorism and US forces in the region terrorists.
The SNSC said it has put CENTCOM on its terror list as a “reciprocal measure” against the US “illegal and unwise” move.
The move has caused problems for foreigners who deal with the IRGC, and for US diplomats and military officers in Iraq and Syria, whose interlocutors may work with the IRGC.
It created confusion among US officials who initially had no guidance on how to proceed and on whether they were still allowed to deal with such interlocutors, three US officials said.
American officials have long said they fear the designation could endanger US forces in places such as Syria or Iraq.