Sanctions slapped on Iran by former President Donald Trump in response to Iranian conduct are likely to be lifted by the Biden administration.
“Sanctions … on Iran’s energy sector, which include oil and gas, or those on the automotive industry, financial, banking and port sanctions, all should be lifted based on agreements reached so far,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi was quoted as saying by Iranian state media, according to Reuters.
Araqchi, who is Iran’s chief negotiator in talks held in Vienna that involved the U.S. and other nations, sounded confident Iran will get its way.
“We will negotiate until the two sides’ positions come closer and our demands are met,” he said. “If they are met there will be an agreement, if not there will naturally be no agreement.”
Araqchi implied that not all sanctions will be lifted.
“There are individuals and institutions that have been specifically sanctioned and their (the U.S.) list is long. Talks on the list are still ongoing,” he said, indicating that most who have been sanctioned would be taken off that list.
The Vienna talks involve Iran and the U.S. dealing through intermediaries, including Russia. Iran has said it will not meet directly with the U.S.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s representative at the talks, indicated that nothing immediate is expected.
“We need simply to continue diplomatic, day-to-day work, and we have all the reasons to expect that the outcome, (the) final outcome, will be successful and it will come quite soon, in a few weeks,” he said.
A combined statement from France, Britain and Germany was less rosy.
“We have much work, and little time, left. Against that background, we would have hoped for more progress this week,” the statement said, referencing a May 21 deadline. That’s when the agreement between Iran and the U.N. for monitoring some Iranian nuclear activities expires.
“We have yet to come to an understanding on the most critical points. Success is by no means guaranteed, but not impossible,” they added.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan indicated negotiations could go either way.
“We’ve seen willingness of all sides, including the Iranians, to talk seriously about sanctions relief restrictions and a pathway back into the JCPOA,” Sullivan said, referring to the Iran nuclear deal by its formal title, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“But it is still uncertain as to whether this will culminate in a deal in Vienna,” he said.
Biden, who was vice president when former President Barack Obama reached the deal with Iran in 2015, has made a return to the deal a major foreign policy priority.
When Trump began piling sanctions on Iran in 2018, some were linked to violations of the nuclear deal, but others to Iran’s support for terrorism. The challenge facing the U.S. in the negotiations is that Iran’s stated position is that it wants all sanctions removed, a more sweeping action that the U.S. is inclined to take, according to NBC News.
“Any return to the JCPOA would require sanctions relief, but we are considering removing only those sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price. “Even if we rejoin the JCPOA — which remains a hypothetical — we would retain and continue to implement sanctions on Iran for activities not covered by the JCPOA, including Iran’s missile proliferation, support for terrorism, and human rights abuses.”
“There are sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA and as we have said, if Iran resumes its compliance with the nuclear deal … we would be prepared to lift those sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA,” Price said last week without explaining what those sanctions were.
Some are already unhappy.
“The administration is looking to allow tens of billions of dollars into the coffers of the regime even if it means lifting sanctions on major entities blacklisted for terrorism and missile proliferation,” said Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, according to The Washington Post.
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