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Kerry: You Know Who Hates the Nuke Deal? Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Citing an assessment by the U.S. intelligence community, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps opposes the nuclear accord struck earlier this month by the United States, Tehran and five world powers.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 28: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies during a hearing before the  House Foreign Affairs Committee July 28, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee is reviewing the proposed Iran nuclear agreement. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 28: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee July 28, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee is reviewing the proposed Iran nuclear agreement. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)

Citing an assessment by the U.S. intelligence community, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps opposes the nuclear accord struck earlier this month by the United States, Tehran and five world powers.

“The IRGC opposes this agreement,” said Kerry, using an acronym to describe the powerful branch of Iran’s armed forces. “I invite you to talk to the intel community about that, they will document it.”

The remark, expressed during a hearing at the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was designed to rebut critics who say the Iran deal will benefit the IRGC and result in a windfall of unfrozen funds for its commanders who project power inside and outside of Iran. But it also revealed a U.S. assessment of one of the most opaque institutions in Iranian society.

Citing an assessment by the U.S. intelligence community, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps opposes the nuclear accord struck earlier this month by the United States, Tehran and five world powers.

“The IRGC opposes this agreement,” said Kerry, using an acronym to describe the powerful branch of Iran’s armed forces. “I invite you to talk to the intel community about that, they will document it.”

The remark, expressed during a hearing at the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was designed to rebut critics who say the Iran deal will benefit the IRGC and result in a windfall of unfrozen funds for its commanders who project power inside and outside of Iran. But it also revealed a U.S. assessment of one of the most opaque institutions in Iranian society.

Formed in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the IRGC is tasked with protecting the country’s Islamic system and boasts air, naval and ground components. According to the Congressional Research Service, it has about 150,000 fighters. Although its primary mandate is internal security, its forces also aid the country’s regular army.

In his testimony, Kerry said the Revolutionary Guard opposes the Iran deal because foreign powers will be less hesitant to confront IRGC units militarily when it becomes clear Iran has no nuclear deterrent. “One of the reasons they oppose this agreement,” said Kerry, “is that they see themselves losing the cover of the nuclear umbrella that they’d hoped to have for their nefarious activities.”

“Now, there’s nothing here to prevent us from pushing back the IRGC and others going forward,” added Kerry.

It is true that senior IRGC leaders and other Iranian hardliners have openly criticized the Iran nuclear deal in recent days.

Last week, top Revolutionary Guards commander Mohammed Ali Jafari was quoted by the semi-official Tasnim News Agency as saying the deal “clearly crossed” the Iranian supreme leader’s red lines. “We will never accept it,” he said.

But experts say the IRGC’s posture toward the deal is much more complicated.

“My own surmise is that the talks and the deal represent an undertaking that commands wide but not universal consensus within the Iranian regime, including within the IRGC at all ranks,” Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution, told FP. “I come to that conclusion through the anecdotal evidence of the past two years, during which time the Guard has done little to nothing to undercut the executive branch’s effort to negotiate a deal.”

Karim Sadjadpour, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, offered a more nuanced assessment than Kerry. “I suspect some members feel threatened by a deal that curtails their nuclear program and could open up the Iranian economy and force them to compete with major international companies,” he said. “Others will welcome a deal, believing it will provide them billions of [dollars of] additional resources.”

When contacted by FP, a spokesman for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper referred to statements the director made last week at the Aspen National Security Forum. The remarks did not address the IRGC’s support or disapproval of the Iran deal, but Clapper did downplay the potential benefits a deal would offer the IRGC.

“I’m sure they’ll get some money but I don’t think it will be a huge windfall for them,” he said. “The considered [intelligence community] judgment, which is based on a pretty solid assessment, is that the lion’s share of the funding that would be freed up with the sanctions relief would go to things economic.”

Sadjadpour, meanwhile, doubted that U.S. officials could accurately assess the IRGC’s view on this issue. “My sense is that the U.S. government has good technical intelligence on Iran but poor political intelligence,” he said. “The CIA famously concluded in August 1978 — a few months before the revolution — that Iran ‘is not revolutionary or even in a pre-revolutionary situation.'”

“That was at a time when the U.S. had thousands of people on the ground in Iran,” he added. “Given we haven’t had an embassy in Tehran for 36 years, I doubt our track record is any better now.”

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