Blinken expects 'hundreds' of sanctions to remain on Iran even with return to nuclear deal

Penalties imposed on Iran’s Central Bank, oil and financial sectors central to negotiations

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “hundreds" of Washington-imposed sanctions on Iran would remain, even if Tehran returned to full compliance with the nuclear deal.

Speaking before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, Mr Blinken said that while the Biden administration was ready to offer sanctions relief if Iran returned to compliance with the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, other measures relating to its "destabilising" behaviour would stay.

“We don’t know at this stage whether Iran is willing and able to do what it would need to do to come back into compliance [with the deal]. We will see if that actually materialises,” Mr Blinken said, days after his team concluded the fifth round of indirect negotiations with Iran in Vienna.

If Iran does return to compliance, Mr Blinken said the US “responsibility would be to lift sanctions inconsistent with the [nuclear deal], but to resolutely maintain sanctions that are consistent with it to deal with a multiplicity of malign Iran actions in a whole series of areas".

“I would anticipate even in the event of return to compliance with the [deal], hundreds of sanctions will remain in place, including sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. If they are not inconsistent with the [deal], they will remain unless and until Iran’s behaviour changes,” he added.

Mr Blinken was vague on which sanctions would be lifted and those that would remain.

Henry Rome, a senior analyst focused on Iran at the Eurasia Group, saw Mr Blinken’s comments as an attempt to strike a balance between the issues of sanctions relief and national security.

“Mr Blinken is making a fairly straightforward point: Washington is not contemplating wiping the slate clean from all sanctions imposed under the Trump administration, despite Iran's prior public demands that it do so,” Mr Rome told The National.

The main challenge facing the US and Iran, he said, “is negotiating which sanctions stay and which go, balancing political, economic and national security considerations in both countries".

Sanctions imposed on Iran’s Central Bank, as well as its oil and financial sectors, are central to the next steps in negotiations.

Most of the penalties were removed under the 2015 nuclear deal but were reinstated and strengthened by the administration of former president Donald Trump after the US withdrew from the agreement in 2018.

Mr Trump blacklisted Iran’s Central Bank under terrorist designations in 2019, complicating any potential efforts by the Biden administration to lift associated sanctions.

Measures against Iranian oil and petrochemical companies present a similar problem.

For Iran to trade its oil internationally after a return to compliance with the deal, the US would have to remove those sanctions.

But such a move could spark pushback from Congress on the legality and authority used to remove those measures.

Washington is preparing for another round of indirect negotiations with Iran to reach a compromise.

"We expect that there will be a sixth [round]. I think there's just about every expectation that there will be subsequent rounds beyond that," State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Updated: June 8, 2021 11:07 PM


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