US to maintain some sanctions on Iran, even if they resume nuclear deal

Negotiations between the two countries continue without reaching any advanced conclusions
Atalayar_Antony Blinken, secretario de Estado Estados Unidos

PHOTO/REUTERS  -   US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken

President Biden's administration anticipates sanctions against Iran will remain in place in talks with Iran on US rejoining the nuclear deal. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that these sanctions will remain in place even if there is a return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which former President Donald Trump tore up in 2015.

"I would anticipate that even in the event of a return to JCPOA compliance, hundreds of sanctions remain in place, including sanctions imposed by the Trump administration," Blinken told a Senate hearing. "If they are not inconsistent with the JCPOA, they will remain unless and until Iran's behaviour changes," he said.

Discussions in Vienna, brokered by European diplomats, have been in dispute over what penalties to forgive and the Biden administration is ready to end the broad measures imposed by Trump. One will even make an effort to halt all oil exports from Iran if it reverses steps in the nuclear deal it took to protest the last administration's sanctions.

Atalayar_Mohammad Javad Zarif, ministro Asuntos Exteriores Irán, Agencia Internacional Energía Atómica
WANA/MAJID ASGARIPOUR - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) meets with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi (R) in Tehran, Iran, 21 February 2021

But Iran insists on lifting all sanctions, and the Biden administration for its part is not budging and reiterates that if sanctions are imposed on other issues (including those affecting human rights and Iran's support for extremist movements), some sanctions will remain in place in any case.

Blinken reiterated his support for returning to the nuclear deal, with which UN inspectors said Iran was in compliance before Trump withdrew the US. Asked about concerns about Iran's failure to declare all activities since before the nuclear deal, Blinken said, "Plain and simple, we would be in an even better place to insist that it answer those questions if we had gotten Iran back into compliance with the JCPOA and if we were also a party to it." He added that "regardless, he needs to answer those questions. He needs to clarify past activities," Blinken said.

At the same time, the United States on Tuesday called on Iran to allow the UN Atomic Energy Agency to continue monitoring its activities, as set out in the deal extended until June 24, otherwise it would jeopardise broader negotiations with Iran to restart the nuclear deal. 

Atalayar_2Revolución Islámica de 1979
AFP PHOTO / HO / KHAMENEI.IR - A picture of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

The International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran reached a three-month agreement in February cushioning the blow of Tehran's decision to reduce its cooperation with the agency by ending additional monitoring measures introduced by the 2015 deal.

Under this new side agreement, which was extended for a month on 24 May, the data is still being collected in the form of a 'black box' agreement and will only be accessible to the IAEA in the future. It is unclear whether the agreement will be extended again; the International Atomic Energy Agency said such negotiations are becoming increasingly difficult. "We strongly encourage Iran to avoid any action that would impede the IAEA's collection of or access to needed information," said a US statement at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation Board of Governors.

"Such action would, at a minimum, seriously complicate ongoing efforts to reach an understanding on how Iran can return to compliance with its JCPOA commitments in exchange for a similar resumption by the United States," it added, referring to the 2015 agreement by its full name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Atalayar_ Anthony Blinken
REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS - Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State

Indirect negotiations between the US and Iran to restart the deal will resume in Vienna this week. The data covered by the separate IAEA-Iran agreement includes real-time uranium enrichment levels, as well as whether centrifuges, uranium enrichment machines and centrifuge parts production.

Negotiators are under pressure to reach a renewal of the pact before Iran's presidential election on 18 June, which is likely to usher in a hard-line president. An Iranian government spokesman said on 8 June that Iran's policy on the talks will not change after the election because the issue is decided by its top leader.

Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei told a weekly press conference that Iran's nuclear policy, set by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is not linked to domestic developments and that the new government would maintain the same policies as those followed at the Vienna talks.