Iran nuclear deal advances as US offers sanctions relief
The Biden administration has indicated it is prepared to ease sanctions against critical elements of Iran’s economy, including oil and finance, helping to narrow differences in nuclear negotiations, people familiar with the matter say. .
Despite the progress, senior diplomats have warned that difficult weeks of negotiations on the 2015 nuclear deal are ahead and progress remains fragile. Talks in Vienna are complicated by domestic politics in Washington and Tehran and Iran’s refusal to meet directly with the United States
President Biden wants to revert to the 2015 deal after former President Donald Trump stepped down in 2018. The US decision to quit the deal and impose sweeping sanctions on Iran prompted Tehran to violate many key restrictions of the agreement, making a return to the agreement. provisions and limits difficult for both parties.
share your thoughts
Do you think the 2015 nuclear deal should be relaunched? Why or why not? Join the conversation below.
Senior officials in Vienna this week concluded five days of talks, with delegations returning home before negotiations resumed next week. Those involved in the talks say progress has been made as the United States has more clearly laid out the contours of the sanctions relief it is prepared to provide.
Numerous sanctions have been imposed under Mr Trump using US terrorist authorities, and US officials have previously said they are prepared to consider lifting some of them. But they did not detail which sanctions could be relaxed or which Iranian entities could be affected.
Two people familiar with the matter said the United States was ready to lift terrorist sanctions against Iran’s central bank, its national oil and oil companies and several key economic sectors, including steel, aluminum and others. A senior EU official said Washington had also signaled potential sanctions relief for sectors such as textiles, automobiles, shipping and insurance, all industries Iran was supposed to win in the deal. from 2015.
The lifting of terrorist sanctions against some of these state entities and critical sectors of the economy would act as an important tonic for the crippled economy and would represent a significant share of the country’s income.
US officials in Vienna described the types of sanctions relief being considered, but did not offer a detailed proposal, according to people familiar with the matter.
The two sides disagree over Iran’s demand that the United States lift its radical designation of “foreign terrorist organization” from Iran’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The United States is not currently considering lifting terrorist sanctions against the IRGC, people familiar with the matter have said.
Learn more about Iran’s nuclear program
The US terrorist list from the office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is also likely to prove controversial, officials said.
While the Biden administration has said it is ready to roll back sanctions imposed by Mr. Trump, officials also said they reserved the right to retain some of the actions against Tehran’s support for militant groups and its ballistic missile program.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that US officials appeared serious in their offer to lift the sanctions. But he said Washington needs to go beyond the generalities and spell out the exact details.
“In some ways we found them to be serious,” he said. “In some stages, they speak equivocally. Now we should see.
A senior State Department official said on Wednesday that the United States had provided Iran with examples of sanctions that Washington would negotiate to strike a deal.
“I think they have a pretty clear idea at this point of our perspective on which sanctions we are going to have to lift,” and which ones “we would not like to lift,” the official said.
Iran reduced its compliance with the 2015 agreement following the withdrawal of the Trump administration, expanding its uranium enrichment operations. An Iranian official said a return to the nuclear deal would end only 800 new US terrorist sanctions and designations, roughly half of the 1,500 Iran estimates have been imposed on its economic sectors, institutions , businesses and individuals.
Unraveling Iran’s complex web of sanctions is a politically sensitive task for Biden’s team. Opposition to a potential deal is building among Republican critics of the Biden administration. A group of Republican senators are pushing for legislation giving Congress the power to prevent the administration from lifting any of the sanctions against Iran.
Supporters of keeping the sanctions in place say any relief would undermine Washington’s leverage to secure a new, strengthened deal, indicating that Tehran’s available foreign exchange reserves are falling to their lowest level in decades. That figure is offset by an increase in Iranian oil exports since the Biden administration took office, with China taking a large chunk of the new production as Washington has a more lenient approach to Iran.
Progress was also made in talks on Iran’s path to abiding by the 2015 accord, which were limited to what to do with its three-tonne stockpile of enriched uranium and what to do with it. what happens to the advanced machines that Tehran has installed to produce nuclear fuel faster. .
Officials also said Iran has moved away in talks from insisting the United States roll back all sanctions imposed since 2015, when the nuclear deal was implemented. Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi told the Wall Street Journal last week that while Tehran’s request ended all sanctions, he was prepared to negotiate the request.
Tehran extremists, however, have publicly disagreed with Araghchi, creating internal tensions that worry Western officials. The state-run English-language Press TV quoted an informed source on Tuesday as saying that Iran does not agree to a sequential lifting of sanctions and that Iran should verify any sanctions relief before reciprocating, which would take up to six months.
Parties to the 2015 deal, which also include France, Germany, Russia, China and Britain, agreed to create a new group to tackle a central challenge of the talks – precisely matching what actions the United States and Iran need to take, and when, on lifting sanctions and rescinding Iranian violations of the agreement.
Negotiators also said this week that they had started drafting texts of potential agreements that could be discussed in future sessions.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Russian ambassador to the United Nations atomic agency and chief negotiator in the talks, told the Journal that work has started on drafting steps the two sides should take to restore the deal. He said negotiations could be concluded at the end of May, when an agreement ensuring the International Atomic Energy Agency’s continued monitoring of Iran’s nuclear activities expires.
“I don’t think there are insurmountable obstacles to a deal,” he said.
—Sune Engel Rasmussen contributed to this article.
Copyright © 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8