WASHINGTON (AP) – A senior US official said on Wednesday that the Biden administration had presented examples of the types of sanctions against Iran it was prepared to lift in return for Iran returning to abide by the deal nuclear 2015.
The official said the United States, through intermediaries, presented Iran with three packages of sanctions: those it is ready to lift, those it is not ready to lift and those it is not ready to lift. which will require further study to determine if they are in fact appropriate for nuclear deal relief. The official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity due to the confidential nature of the discussions.
The official declined to say which sanctions fell into which baskets, but said the third group was the most problematic. Indeed, it includes measures that current officials believe were imposed by the previous administration simply to complicate any potential return to the deal that former President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018.
Any sanctions relief offered by the administration will be strongly opposed by Republicans in Congress, who on Wednesday unveiled a bill to codify Trump-era sanctions into law. Israel, which views Iran as an existential threat, will likely oppose the relief as well, as will Arab Gulf states wary of Iran’s growing aggressiveness in the region.
The 2015 deal gave Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief in return for restrictions on its nuclear program. But that relief largely evaporated after Trump withdrew from the deal and launched a self-proclaimed “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran by reimposing previous sanctions and adding new ones.
While the deal allowed countries to continue imposing sanctions on Iran for non-nuclear reasons, such as supporting terrorism and human rights violations, some of the additional U.S. sanctions would need to be lifted if Washington wants to return to the agreement, according to the official.
The official said the Trump administration has designated some nuclear sanctions as terrorist sanctions. This makes it harder for a future president to come back to the deal.
Many of the sanctions Trump imposed on Iran were clearly tied to the nuclear program, including those that targeted companies and officials working on atomic issues, and should be lifted if the United States returns to the deal. But others, ostensibly imposed for terrorism and human rights reasons, are less clear-cut, including those affecting Iran’s financial, maritime, manufacturing and energy sectors. The official said the Biden administration was still determining which of these were legitimately linked to terrorism and human rights.
The official said that there is not yet an agreement on sanctions relief between Iran, the United States or other parties in the indirect negotiations taking place in Vienna on the revival of the nuclear deal. These talks are on hold but are expected to resume next week. The official did not give a deadline on the end of the talks.
Iran is calling for the removal of all sanctions imposed on it by the Trump administration following its withdrawal from the agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. The Biden administration has said it will only lift sanctions if Iran reverts to respecting the restrictions the agreement places on its nuclear activities.
The official said no decision has been made on the sequence of movements of either party, but pointed out that a situation in which the United States lifts its sanctions before Iran to take action to regain compliance would be “unacceptable”.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said earlier Wednesday that the talks had produced “signs of progress.” But, he warned that “we probably have a longer road ahead of us than in the rearview mirror at this point. And this is due to the challenges inherent in this process. And many of those challenges, at least, don’t go away. “
Talks in Vienna broke out on Tuesday, with delegates from Russia and Iran reporting limited progress.
Russian representative Mikhail Ulyanov said after a meeting of the so-called Joint Commission of the Agreement of senior officials from France, Germany, Britain, China and Iran that they had noted “with satisfaction the progress of negotiations for restore the nuclear deal ”.
Meanwhile, Iran’s delegate Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi also issued a positive note, telling Iranian state-run news agency IRNA that talks “are moving forward despite difficulties and challenges.” .